The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Aficionados of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tend to know that the original title means “Men who hate women.” A New York Times reviewer called the original name of the book “unsexy,” but this just shows insensitivity on the part of the reviewer, as it is in fact a harrowing title. Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer is a novel about this very topic, and to read it as entertainment is impossible – it is just too gruesome for that.

Michael Haller is a defense lawyer living and working in Los Angeles, operating out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car. He is not without compassion and he has a conscience, but over the years he has become a cynic. He sees the legal system for what it is – imperfect but necessary – and he’s not perfect himself. He bribes bondsmen and manipulates cases for his own reasons. There is nothing about the law that he cherishes anymore – the law is not about justice and truth, it is about “negotiation, amelioration, manipulation.” The guilty may not be guilty, and the not guilty are rarely innocent.

Haller tends to think that no one is innocent – everyone is guilty of something – and he wonders if he could even recognize an innocent man if such a thing would actually appear. And then it does. When the lawyer is trying to save this person, “the machine” – the California legal system – is revealed, and so is the kind of people that the system has to handle every day: people who are liars, people who cheat and steal, people who are sociopaths and psychopaths, people who brutalize their fellow human beings and kill them – crime is actually so rampant that the Rose Bowl could be filled twice a year with potential clients. How could such a society possibly create a perfect legal system?

The plot of The Lincoln Lawyer twists and turns like a roller coaster, and the strength of the writing is actually what could be described as its weakness. Sometimes great authors want the reader to believe that the fictional, first-person singular narrator has somehow just sat down and written a masterpiece. This is an unlikely proposition, as it (not always, but) usually takes time and a lot of work to become a truly great author. The Lincoln Lawyer, on the other hand, is flawed but intense – as if an intelligent first-time writer, talking with feverish energy about his life, has written the story. In other words, The Lincoln Lawyer could very well have been written by someone like Michael Haller, the Lincoln lawyer. Intended or not on Connelly’s behalf, it is quite effective, and refreshing in a world filled with carefully crafted, cookie cutter novels.

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2 Responses to “The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly”

  1. The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] Haller, lawyer extraordinaire  and main character in the earlier book, The Lincoln Lawyer (see review). In The Gods of Guilt neither Connelly nor Mickey Haller will disappoint you here. So who are the […]

  2. Best New Books of 2014: Stephen B’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] Detective Harry Bosch, and his half-brother, attorney Mickey Haller. We first met Mickey in The Lincoln Lawyer, where the reader learned his penchant for operating out of the back of his car…a Lincoln. In […]

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