The Gods of Guilt, Mickey Haller's mentor 'Legal' Siegel reminds him, was Haller's father's term for the jurors in a trial, but, as he says 'there are plenty of people out there judging us every day of our lives for every move we make. The gods of guilt are many. You don't need to add to them.'
Mickey has just won a mistrial by using in court a manoeuvre that has nothing to do with justice and very little to do with law, one that he learned from Legal. He's just smuggled a french dip sandwich into Siegel's room at the old folks home, bending or ignoring the rules just as surely as they would have done in the courtroom. But Haller is about to have his own guilty gods visit him, when he gets called on to defend an accused murderer, an internet pimp named Andre LaCosse. LaCosse has been referred to him by the victim, whom Haller knew and defended under a different name, but who always called him her 'Mickey Mantle', the New York Yankee baseball star. Haller thought he'd saved Gloria Dayton, as he knew her, and helped her start a new life in Hawaii. Now she's lying dead in an LA apartment, and Haller can't escape feeling the obligation guilt invokes.
Even worse, he realises quickly that LaCosse is innocent, and as we know well Haller's worst nightmare is an innocent client. There is a great comparison to be drawn here with his half-brother Harry Bosch: Bosch is driven by his sense of justice, while Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, is driven by a chaffeur in his town car. Harry is concerned with the result, Haller with the process. It's like the TV series Law & Order, which got it backward: the cops aren't the 'law' part, that's the lawyers. It's the cops who seek to establish order, and the lawyers who manipulate the law, sometimes in the name of justice, but more often simply to win their battle.
Mickey has another god of guilt driving him; his relations with his daughter are at an all-time low after the events of The Fifth Witness, and he needs for her to see him doing the right thing. Which means that Haller needs to prove his client's innocence, and that means he must become a detective himself. Which becomes both difficult and dangerous, as he discovers Gloria's death may be tied into her testimony against another of his clients, and may drag cops and federal agents into the mix.
It's a story that weaves deeper and deeper, with Haller and his team functioning like a 21st century version of Perry Mason and Paul Drake, in a far more dangerous world. The pace is frantic, and sometimes chaotic, just as you'd expect from the Lincoln Lawyer, but it works primarily because of the motivation: the plot is driven by Haller's own drives, and it is from his perspective that we see it. Connelly's greatest talent may be his ability to convey his stories through his characters, and to remain honest with their point of view, and he does that superbly here.
In my interview with Michael (see the previous post), he made one interesting comment. The producers of The Lincoln Lawyer movie remain interested in doing a sequel, but none of his follow-up books have seemed right to them, because they didn't have Haller himself feeling a sense of a mission, feeling that elusive need for justice which I mentioned at the start. This book does that, which is why Haller seems to move a bit into Harry Bosch territory. People have noticed that Connelly writes courtroom thrillers to match the best of them, but this isn't as much a courtroom novel as a real detective novel, with Mickey Haller needing to prove himself a detective. The pieces do fall together in the end, without gimmick, but it's the getting there that marks Michael Connelly's real talent as a writer.
The Gods Of Guilt by Michael Connelly
Orion £18.99 ISBN 9781409134343
note: This review will also appear at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)