What happens when the best crime novelist of his generation turns his attention from police procedurals to legal drama? Simply the best courtroom thriller in years.
Michael Connelly already has put his years as a Los Angeles Times crime reporter to great use in his Harry Bosch cop thrillers, writing with great authenticity about how things work — and don't work — in the business of chasing bad guys and the effect that the daily grind of dealing with the lowest of the low has on the soul.
So it shouldn't be any surprise that Connelly is just as good at conveying what life is like on the other side of the system.
Mickey Haller is an aggressive criminal defense lawyer whose motto is, "Don't do the crime if you can't pay for my time." Still, he's not quite as successful as the airs he puts on for the benefit of possible customers — such as showing up everywhere in a big Lincoln driven by a client working off a debt — would lead people to believe.
But that's about to change. Mickey finally has gotten what he and his ilk always dream of: a "franchise" client. A member of the idle rich, Louis Roulet has been arrested for brutally assaulting a woman after trying to pick her up in a bar. He claims he's being set up for a huge lawsuit and is completely innocent, and there appear to be large holes in the cops' case.
That doesn't really concern Mickey. He just wants the check to clear. The last thing he wants is a genuinely innocent client. Mickey always has claimed his biggest fear is that innocence will walk in the front door, and he will either be too jaded to recognize it or, worse, it will be the one case he will be unsuccessful in defending.
But Mickey is about to learn there is something worse: being confronted with pure evil. He then learns his previous fear also was realized in years past, and rectifying the error puts him in direct conflict with his current case.
Mickey has no time for re-evaluating his life — he's too busy trying to save it and the lives of everyone he cares about. This includes his first ex-wife; a prosecutor, Margaret MacPherson, who still loves him but whose mission in life conflicts with his own; and his beloved daughter.
Connelly brings the same grit and immediacy to "The Lincoln Lawyer" that have become the trademarks of his cop series. Eventually, he also brings the same amount of soul to this novel. Mickey's awakening is the real core of the story, but it's not hackneyed, simplistic or overdone. This is a redemptive story but not a turn from complete black to white. Rather, it's about a man who cluelessly was lost in shades of gray but recovers his moral center.
"The Lincoln Lawyer" blows the usual legal beagle suspects — such as John Grisham, Steve Martini and Lisa Scottoline — out of the water. It has the moral weight of a John Lescroart novel but with a far lighter, grittier touch, and it's way more fun to read than the ponderings of Scott Turow.
Best of all, despite his progress, Mickey still has room to grow and personal issues to sort out. This means — hopefully — Connelly has another character through whose jaded eyes we can view the overly politicized Los Angeles criminal justice system in future novels.