The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly
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Buy *The Fifth Witness (A Lincoln Lawyer Novel)* by Michael Connelly online

The Fifth Witness (A Lincoln Lawyer Novel)
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown
448 pages
April 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Connelly is in top form as his “Lincoln Lawyer,” Mickey Haller, forages in a diminishing economy for new clients, expanding his practice from criminal to foreclosure defense. Given the spate of foreclosures in California, the future is suddenly looking brighter. Small cases, maybe, but it’s all in the numbers, including Lisa Trammel’s situation. A victim of unemployment and her husband’s abandonment, she now faces the bank’s foreclosure on her home. Trammel pickets the bank relentlessly until they get a temporary restraining order against her, sets up a website for other victims of the economy – FLAG - and remains a vocal nuisance more than willing to appear on CNN and the local news coverage of the foreclosure crisis.

From the backseat of his mobile Lincoln office, Haller is suddenly thrust into the courtroom when Trammel is arrested for the death of Mitchell Bondurant, the public face of the bank’s policies. Despite her protests of innocence, Trammel is the authorities’ first suspect as the killer. First questioned then arrested for Bondurant’s death, Lisa begs Haller to represent her. He agrees, but only after strictly admonishing his client to talk to no one about the case, ignorant that Lisa is already making book deals and aggressively courting the media.

Connelly is a master of courtroom drama: the staged battleground of prosecution and defense; the strategic moves and pyrrhic victories; hours of witness investigation; jury selection and careful research to tease out biases of potential jurors; the ammunition to dismantle the opposition’s case and challenge each piece of evidence. Haller believes he has a sound foundation - Lisa was set up - and works to introduce a scenario that posits his theory of another killer. But the adversarial system is tricky and elaborate, the prosecutor delivering a tight argument and few opportunities to undermine her case. While Haller’s team goes into overdrive, he is energized by the challenges of a trial by jury, but there are moments with his ex-wife, prosecutor Maggie McPherson, where Mickey experiences some rare moments of insight into his own behavior and why his marriage to a woman he still loves ended in divorce.

There is a nice balance between the case, the investigation, the antics of an unlikable client and Haller’s occasional bouts of self-awareness in what is overall a fast-paced, riveting courtroom drama with plenty of cliff-hangers. A good legal thriller provides not only drama but information about the legal process and the myriad strategies and pitfalls of litigation. A paean to qualified lawyers, this novel repairs some damage to the legal profession without glossing over the often hardball tactics used by each side to win a case. Not to worry; Connelly throws in plenty of curve balls, including a significant one at the end, ever-conscious of keeping his readers engaged and wanting more. Like early John Grisham, Connelly gets it and delivers with precision, the all-too-flawed Mickey Haller sometimes arrogant, sometimes crazy but always charming in another solid story with much to recommend it.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2011

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