Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's the Difference Between a Defense Lawyer & a Catfish?

The way the joke goes, one is a bottom-feeding scum sucker and one is a fish. In Michael Connelly's first Mickey Haller novel The Lincoln Lawyer, this joke follows the main character from courtroom to his own home. First told to him as an insult by a police officer, Haller later tells the joke himself. The joke serves as a metaphor for Haller's life and highlights his epiphany, which slowly occurs throughout the course of the novel.

Haller is similar to Harry Bosch, Connelly's long-time series detective, in that he's rough around the edges, but different because he at first seems beyond liking. Haller is a defense attorney, like his father before him. He bluntly talks about both his failed marriages as faults of his own. However, as I read the book, Haller started to grow on me. At one point his first ex-wife and the mother of his child tells him that she doesn't understand his innate likeability. Although he defends despicable clients who commit crimes against people and themselves, he remains close to both his ex-wives; one is his go-to "pick me up from the bar when I've had too much to drink" friend and one works for him. He has losers for friends -- shady private investigators and low-down bail bondsmen. However, in some way as I read I began to like them, too. Connelly has that ability -- to make the seemingly unlikeable character become very likeable. So likeable, in fact, that you end up rooting for them in the end.

And that is what Connelly accomplished in this book. I began it thinking that I wouldn't like it very much because it was a stand-alone (at the time it was written -- since then, Haller has joined Bosch in books). I was reading it simply to get on to the next Bosch novel. But as I read, I began to like the characters and to be genuinely interested in the novel's outcome. The evil client thrown in for good measure doesn't hurt, either. I love a good serial killer story! Connelly comes back to themes he writes about often -- broken relationships, corruption within the LAPD, the ins and outs of the court system -- in this book, and thank goodness. That's one of the reasons I'm reading all of his novels.

This novel is every bit as good, in a nail-biting sort of way, as the Bosch novels are. Now I have to look forward to the crossover novels...! (Can't wait, can't wait!) A small excerpt to get you started:

"I know my place in this world and on the first day of court next year I will pull the Lincoln out of the garage, get back on the road and go looking for the underdog. I don't know where I will go or what cases will be mine. I just know I will be healed and ready to go stand once again in the world without truth." -- Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer

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