• Tammy

Book Review: The Lincoln Lawyer Series by Michael Connelly

In a time when every second person is reading The Hunger Games, The Lincoln Lawyer is exactly the kind of reading that could motivate any law student (unless you are motivated by The Hunger Games – all I can say about that is good luck to you). The Mickey Haller (aka The Lincoln Lawyer) series has all the requisite plot twists and turns, clever use of the American justice system and best of all, it’s about putting those bad criminals away! Well... sort of.

The Lincoln Lawyer

The protagonist, Mickey Haller is a defense attorney who runs his business out the back of his Lincoln (town car). When I first saw the trailer and read the back of the book, all I could think was: “Well, how would that work? I hardly think the Los Angeles Law Society-equivalent would be keen on a defense attorney’s principal place of business being the back of his car...” But that was mystery was quickly solved when it turns out he does have a semi-legitimate registered office (I’ll let you read about it).

I had no doubt that the book would be “100% Connelly, 100% Addictive” as the back cover promised me. Heck, there was even a movie adaptation starring Matthew McConaughey, so it must be pretty decent for Hollywood to bother (even though Hollywood has made questionable movie choices over the years, that’s a tangent we can go off on another time).

Anyway, I was actually impressed. As a law grad, I’ve done my time in criminal law, evidence law and the practical legal subject advocacy. Because of this, I was able to see that a lot of the plot still tried to ‘keep true’ to its legal roots - arguably it presents a more ‘jaded’ view of the legal system (some may say it’s a more realistic view).

"The law school notions about the virtue of the adversarial system, of the system’s checks and balances, of the search for truth, had long since eroded like the face of statues from other civilizations. The law was not about truth. It was about negotiation, amelioration, manipulation. I didn’t deal in guilt and innocence, because everybody was guilty. Of something." – The Lincoln Lawyer, somewhere in chapter 3.

Reading this book really made me think about how ‘cool’ criminal law is (and not how painful it was in reality). Throughout the book though, I was able to see elements of what I had learned in advocacy - about formulating a case theory, presenting that theory and proving that theory. I actually took part in a defended hearing as an assessment for advocacy and acted for the defense. Interestingly, in my very elementary learnings, I was able to see some parts of what I had learnt skill-wise being presented by Mickey Haller, but obviously in a much more impressive manner. However, according to the prosecution and law enforcement agencies in general, defense attorneys are the lowest of the low:

"What’s the difference between a catfish and a defense attorney? One’s a bottom-feeding s**t sucker. And the other one’s a fish." – The Lincoln Lawyer, thrown around throughout the book.

Michael Connelly had obviously done that extra bit of research and really picked up the nuances of the American legal system, the role of the defense attorney and on a whole, the justice system and how it can work in reality. He was able to weave his research through a gripping page-turning storyline. He built up such a clear picture of Mickey Haller that, I am eager to gobble up more of “100% Connelly, 100% Addictive.”

I am happy to report that good ol’ Connelly has written 3 other books based on Mickey Haller and I am also happy to report that I now own these too. Stay tuned for a review on The Brass Verdict. I read the requisite 1.5 teaser chapters that were included at the back of The Lincoln Lawyer, and let me say, I cannot wait to see what amazing techniques (tactics?) that Mickey Haller has up his sleeve.

I give The Lincoln Lawyer four and a half stars out of 5 - because I need to be the cool book reviewer and can’t come off too enthusiastic... Or is 4.5 still too enthusiastic? Oh dear.

The Brass Verdict

True to my word, I dutifully gobbled up this book. Just to make you all a little envious, I read most of it as I lounged by the pool on a sunny weekend day. As I was lounging by said pool, soaking up the sun that my poor law student skin was previously deprived of, it began to rain very heavily on me and my book. I sadly packed up my things and went back to my apartment. I then thought: “But I still want to read, this book is just so good. What happens next? OMG!” I then laid on the couch and read until I fell into a deep afternoon nap.

But I digress.

Michael Connelly is really onto something with his character of Mickey Haller (i.e. The Lincoln Lawyer). He makes the world of criminal defense an exciting, gripping and often life-threatening place. In this book, we see Mickey coming out of a self-induced semi-retirement and wanting to get back into the world of legal defense slowly. True to the fictional American justice system, he is thrust back into court representing a huge Hollywood murder case – excitement! And how did he land this job? Well, the original lawyer representing said Hollywood big shot was, well, inconveniently murdered. So of course, we ask, “could Mickey be next?? Oh noes!”

I love the dramatic book description: “Suddenly it’s not just about winning. It’s about staying alive.”

It may sound lame now but when you are avidly reading the book you can’t help but think that Mickey is weaving himself into some horrible trap. The plot is very well written – gripping from start to finish and there are so many clever twists.

I say it again: I think Michael Connelly is better than John Grisham. Gasp! Considering I’ve only read Grisham’s The Firm, I am either extremely unqualified or very qualified to make this statement. I say super qualified. Why? Well, because I’ve read one Grisham and still feel no need to read more, but after reading the Lincoln Lawyer, I rushed out to buy the other 3 books in the series. I mean, come now, who can resist an opening paragraph such as this:

“Everybody lies. Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victims lie. A trial is a contest of lies. And everybody in the courtroom knows this. The judge knows this. Even the jury knows this. They come into the building knowing they will be lied to. They take their seats in the box and agreed to be lied to. The trick if you are sitting at the defense table is to be patient. To wait. Not just for any lie. But for the one you can grab on to and forge like hot iron into a sharpened blade. You can then use that blade to rip the case open and spill its guts out on the floor. That’s my job, to forge the blade. To sharpen it. To use it without mercy or conscience. To be the truth in a place where everybody lies.”

Sure there’s plenty of crime thriller-type stuff but then there are lots of bits that show how interesting courtroom and courtroom processes can be. And I would say, rather than being just a crime thriller, it is most definitely a legal thriller/ drama. Connelly does not skip out on the legal stuff, which is fab.

The Reversal

Thank God for Michael Connelly. As if my job in a law firm was not enough, in my spare time I read about a lawyer who makes law look like so much fun and so very exciting. And he puts his life in danger along the way. I feel so boring in my cushy desk job.

This time, we see our favourite defence attorney – Mickey Haller – ‘cross the aisle’ and work for the prosecution. Why? To put some big, bad child killer away. The premise of this book is that this convicted child killer – Jason Jessup – is granted a retrial based on new DNA evidence.

One of the many problems that Mickey Haller is facing is that a celebrity defense attorney has already started trying the case in the media before the trial.

What I enjoy most about this series is how the trials are played out in the courtroom. Having learnt about many trial procedures in class, I appreciate the attention given to details like the types of objections being made and the basis upon which that they are made. After learning at uni that it isn’t always the easiest thing in the world to be confident and to think on your feet in the courtroom, you can appreciate more that there are lawyers out there doing it every day. I really enjoy the way Connelly weaves the case theory throughout the story – whether for the defence or the prosecution.

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