Saturday, 28 November 2020


An overlooked strong point of Michael Connelly’s crime writing, even when one of his major recurring characters is the lawyer Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer, has been his skillful adaptation of the courtroom thriller. This was most evident in Two Kinds Of Truth, where Haller’s half-brother Harry Bosch is being framed for planting evidence, even as he goes undercover to solve a double-murder at a pharmacy and break up a massive opiod scam business. The way the two stories are weaved together leads to a courtroom denouement in which Haller works his magic with the material Bosch and his own investigator Cisco have uncovered.

It’s told in the third person, but from Bosch’s point of view, so the reader is seeing the courtroom tactics with Bosch’s explanation, as if he were a commentator for the reader to the event. As an aside, in the television series Bosch, the same scene, with some crucial modifications (not least that because of film rights to The Lincoln Lawyer character, Haller does not appear) is handled in a similar way.

In The Law Of Innocence, it’s Haller who’s being framed. The body of a former client, a career con-man whose bills of course went unpaid, is found in the trunk of Haller’s Lincoln after a seemingly routine traffic stop, and the forensic evidence indicates he was killed in Haller’s garage. Haller decides to defend himself, because the only way to prove his innocence is to prove someone else guilty, and he’s the lawyer best-qualified to do that. The problem is, he’s in jail, and he’s got to get himself out and free to pursue his own investigation and courtroom manoeuvring.

What makes it work, of course, is the way Connelly builds the story piece by piece, as he would with any case. Haller, Cisco and Harry Bosch all follow leads, some of which lead in dead-end directions, but all orchestrated by Haller as he tries to build the foundation of his defense.

But what is really fascinating is the way the story is told, in Haller’s first-person narration. It’s one thing to see from Harry Bosch’s perspective Haller’s abilities to bend and twist the truth, to sometimes run roughshod over ethical bounds, as you did in Two Kinds Of Truth. It’s completely different when you are inhabiting Haller’s own point of view, and the way Connelly writes it, it’s as if you are inside his brain as it is spinning, making decisions on the fly. And this is not just in terms of the legal case; Bosch plays only a small part in the story, but you get a different perspective on how Haller views his less ethically flexible sibling. More important, when the story starts, Haller’s girlfriend has gone off seeking her own space; she returns in his time of need. And so too does his ex-wife, and mother of his daughter, district attorney Maggie “McFierce”. Haller’s own emotional boil is something Connelly writes with great precision, letting the reader see exactly how Haller is focused.

The case itself is not what he appears to be, which you would expect, but it is this low-key but bravura writing which makes it work. There are a couple of items left unresolved; I was irritated by a red-herring of lost papers that never actually reappears, but the others, the nature of the traffic stop itself and the machinations behind the frame-up, would seem to leave the door open for Mickey Haller to seek further justice for himself, and Harry Bosch would be just the person to be at the center of that.

The Law Of Innocence by Michael Connelly Orion Books, £20.00, ISBN 9781409186106


No comments :