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Bookends: The Lincoln Lawyer rights an old wrong October 15, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Lincoln Lawyer rights an old wrong

By Dan DavidsonThe Lincoln Lawyer

January 22, 2014

– 933 words –

 

The Lincoln Lawyer

By Michael Connelly

Grand Central Publishing

544 pages

$10.99

 

My main acquaintance with Michael Connelly’s work has been through the Harry Bosch novels, which are a sort of hard-boiled police procedural type. I picked up two omnibus volumes as e-books through the now defunct distributor Fictionwise, which has since been absorbed by Barnes and Noble. It later turned out there was a time limit on reacquiring the books in B&N’s home format (Nook) and now I can’t open them any more. Just mentioning this as another disadvantage of dealing with e-books instead of paper books.

When I decided to try one of Connelly’s other series, the Michael Haller books, I wanted to start at the beginning. The Lincoln Lawyer came out in 2005 so I’m a few years behind.

The title was intriguing. Was Mickey called that because he fought for freedom and justice, like old Abe? Not at all. It’s because he doesn’t have an actual physical office other than a desk at home, and he conducts most of his business from the back seat of a series of Lincoln town cars.

Haller is the son of a famous lawyer who died when he was young, so most of what he knows about his old man comes from the books he wrote and stories about his cases. Haller senior believed that everyone deserves a good defense and that the job of a lawyer is to provide it, whether the client is innocent or not. Haller junior subscribes to that credo, and so has a long list of ne’er do well clients who keep the cash flow going but don’t make him rich.

He would like to be rich, so when the Louis Ross Roulet case comes knocking, he takes it, because the Roulet family is very wealthy, the retainer is huge and it looks very much like it might become what they call a franchise, a case that stretches out over a long period of time. Also, it seems at the time that Roulet is innocent.

Haller has no permanent relationship attachments, but he has two ex-wives. Maggie McPherson, the first ex, is also the mother of his daughter and a prosecutor, the latter occupation being part of what put a strain on their marriage.

The other ex-wife is Lorna Taylor, who acts as his secretary and answering service.

Both his exes are still very fond of him and seem to believe that he’s a better man than he thinks he is. His daughter loves him too, but he doesn’t manage to spend enough time with her. He’s married to his work. He and Maggie argue about that a lot.

There’s something kinky about the Roulet case right from the outset, but Haller is blinded by the money. At least he is until he realizes that the facts of the Roulet case – the assault on the hooker and the physical details – are a lot like an incomplete version of a case he worked on a few years earlier, a case where the assailant finished the job and killed the woman.

He’d managed to save his client’s life on that one, but only by persuading Menendez that the evidence against him was so good his only chance was to plead guilty to a lesser charge and serve a lot of time. They guy’s still in there, and as the coincidences pile up, Haller begins to try to figure out how to work the present case so that he doesn’t violate his lawyer/client obligations but still repairs the harm.

About then Haller’s detective, Raul Levin, is murdered, and Haller is quite positive, without being able to prove it, that he knows why, and who did it. It turns out he’s only partly correct, but it’s enough to make him even more determined to make things right.

Haller is a re-imagined Perry Mason sort of lawyer, just as likely as not to pull a shady deal and skate right up to the edge of the law, but careful not to get caught. Those books had a lot of dialogue and excelled in their courtroom scenes, and Connelly has the same knack, though with more of a noir edge to his style.

Aside from the main case, we see Haller act in several lesser cases, and it becomes clear that he will play hardball with a client to get his money when it’s due and that he doesn’t much care how his client made that money. On the other hand, there are several cases where he acts pro bono, much to Lorna’s disgust, but does it anyway because it feels right. One of those cases turns out to be of some assistance to him in turning the tables on the Roulet family, but the trick is cleverly concealed from us until the epilogue.

There are two connected things that scare Haller about how this case worked out. His father wrote that one of the greatest fears a lawyer might have is to lose the ability to tell whether his client really deserves him, the ability to see innocence when it is in front of him. The flip side of this is the ability to spot the guilty. Haller has reached that cynical point in his life where the client deserves him if he can pay the bills, and at the end of this story that is no longer enough for him. I look forward to seeing how this governs his actions in future stories.

 

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