Book Review – The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

It’s somewhat appropriate that I’m writing about The Lincoln Lawyer while watching the season finale of Castle since Michael Connelly frequently appears at Castle’s mystery writer poker table. I found The Lincoln Lawyer to be less of a true mystery and more of a thriller as the audience and the narrator, Mickey Haller, are sure about who is behind various questionable and many certifiably illegal acts. The question of this novel isn’t “whodunnit?” but how is he going to finally get caught, especially since it’s the narrator’s job to make sure he gets off.

Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney with the fruitful LA area supplying him with a steady stream of clients who provide just enough of a living for him to keep gas in his Lincoln. That is, until he finds himself defending Louis Roulet against attempted rape charges and it looks like he finally has the franchise case his bank account has been dreaming of. But while Roulet’s story and Haller’s trial plans may be enough to get Roulet off, is at a loss for how to get another client, Jesus Menendez, back out of prison for a murder Haller now knows he did not commit.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. On the one hand, it is very meticulously organized and is a very compelling read. There are scenes and histories with other clients and other cases that can be a little tedious at the novel’s beginning (though it starts to pick up around the one-quarter mark and really gets going halfway through) but they each come back around and play a part in the plot’s progression.

On the other hand, I found it difficult to connect with the characters, even Haller who is telling the story in the first person. There is a lack of trust he shows towards the reader that may be meant as part of his character or that might just be there because it’s the best way to maintain both suspense and the first person narrative. Haller has plots and plans that he informs the reader he has, but without giving any details about what those plans are. It’s difficult to identify with Haller’s fears and anxieties when there is only something abstract to tie them to. The character of Jesus Menendez, who should be the most sympathetic character in the story, is only glimpsed for a moment and with little to stand on, the relationship between him and the reader crumbles and his fate fails to be the emotional investment for the reader that it could have been.

And yet, with all that bothering me, I still flew through the book and would say I found it enjoyable. The courtroom action had a more engaging pace and less objective pace than others I have read (namely Jodi Picoult’s trial scenes which are perhaps too true to life and can drag). While I have not seen the movie yet, but I think it would make a better movie than a book since it wouldn’t have the same problems of keeping perspective and suspense in balance.

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