Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

All right, I'll admit it - it was Matthew McConaughey who drew me to read THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly. I don't normally lean toward this type of book, at least not since I devoured Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow more than 20 years ago. But as a fan of MM, I was eager to examine how the story will translate from page to screen. I have yet to see the movie. But having read the book, I cannot picture anyone but Matthew McConaughey playing this part. I wonder if the author wrote the story with this leading man in mind?

The plot boils down to this: high-powered (yet jaded) attorney, Michael "Mickey" Haller knows what he's good at and has a very high opinion of himself - at least amid the legal system. Instead of an office, he works out of his car - a Lincoln Continental (of which there are actually four in the fleet), which serves to chauffeur him to what seems like revolving doors at various courtrooms throughout Los Angeles County. Mickey has done fairly well for himself (his slogan as printed in the Yellow Pages is "Reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee") by defending a slew of guilty lost souls who live on the fringes of society - drug dealers, junkies, prostitutes. You name it and Mickey's defended it - and probably more than once.

Mickey is stymied when he's called upon to defend Louis Ross Roulet, a wealthy resident of Beverly Hills arrested for a violent, ugly assault. Mickey initially sees dollar signs with what he calls a 'franchise case' - an expensive trial with a laundry list of billable hours. But when Mickey rolls up his sleeves and gets down to business, he soon discovers that he's being as hustled as the clients he normally defends. A case that Mickey represented--and plea bargained years before--figures prominently into the Roulet case. Mickey suffers a crisis of conscience and a moral dilemma. Did Mickey's legal counsel of Jesus Menendez, a past client, put Menendez behind bars for the rest of his life for a crime his current client, Roulet, actually committed? It's an ingenious twist that adds texture and depth to this economically written, first person p-o-v story of gripping suspense, vibrant dialogue, and meticulous plotting.

Connelly sets up the first half of the book by establishing the status quo of Mickey's world - one filled with two failed marriages (and two ex-wives who still have a part in Mickey's life), his own shortcomings as a workaholic dad who hasn't always been there for his daughter, and the terrain he mines as a no-nonsense defender of the down and out. The Roulet case tilts Mickey's world on its axis as he tries to figure out a way to help his innocent, yet jailed client (Menendez), while trying not to jeopardize the Roulet case, as it suddenly puts Mickey's own life at risk. The second half of the book deals mostly with the trial and the challenges Mickey faces amid politics on the bench and the back room deals of the legal system.

In the end, however, it is Connelly's flawed protagonist and the arc of his journey that deepens Mickey's redeeming qualities and gains the unwavering empathy of the reader. You can bet that with or without Matthew McConaughey, I'm bound to read Connelly's next legal thriller (The Fifth Witness, a new Mickey Haller book, is due April 5th)...and maybe the backlist of his books, too!

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Grand Central Publishing, Mass Market Paperback, 9781455500239, 544pp.
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
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