The Lincoln Lawyer

Michael Connelly
Warner Books, 2005

The tangled story is an engaging page-turner told by a self-questioning, storytelling defense lawyer who struggles with the moral shortcomings and practicalities of the legal system. The reader travels with protagonist Mickey Haller as he explains the moral dilemmas of being a defense lawyer of the desperate, while suspecting he’s a target for the next murder by his own wealthy client, dramatically named Louis Roulet. Then there’s Haller’s private life. The guilt ridden, often absent father is the divorced man of two women who (of course) still love him.

Haller ties the action together as he drives sprawling Los Angeles County in his Lincoln Town Cars. The first paragraph succinctly describes the morning air of Los Angeles that has the “taste of promise”.  Since he tells the reader the scariest client is an innocent one, it looks like what the LA air promised is what he wanted, the guilty client who has money, Roulet. Too bad Roulet makes a previous down and out client Haller helped put in San Quentin a few years back, suddenly look innocent.

There was only one area that was too gruesome for me with its details, and maybe no more than half a dozen conversations that trudged on too long, but they were also designed to give immediacy, emotional bearings and occasionally supply readers with a 101 course on court life. Lincoln Lawyer is a good study for a writer who wants to understand the bones of a popular novel. The steady ebb and flow of story tension in the first and last paragraphs of chapters, the easy flow of daily conversation, and the light paintbrush of personalities reward with good story and doesn’t require us to care.

Connelly explains Haller just enough to make him sympathetic with his lawyerly doubts about how practical law works, and gives us a personality with a good balance of salt and pepper. The bad guy was cardboard and acted about as bright, the ex-wives duly respectful and chiding, the judge properly remote, the Hispanic a stereotype. But hey, once again, I was there for the story and to believe the good guys always win. I’m not sure I came away with that conclusion.

 

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