Wednesday, January 20, 2021


THE LAW OF INNOCENCE by Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin, 2020)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can't make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder--as an officer of the court he is an instant target.

Mickey knows he's been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence

Recent novels from Michael Connelly, the modern maestro of LA crime writing, have largely focused on the investigations of long-running hero Harry Bosch and/or Detective Renee Ballard, a fierce new protagonist seeking justice in Bosch’s old stomping grounds in LAPD Hollywood Division. 

Bosch’s half-brother, sly defense attorney Mickey Haller, has made guest appearances in several of those novels, but in THE LAW OF INNOCENCE ‘the Lincoln Lawyer’ has solo top billing for the first time since 2013’s THE GODS OF GUILT in this terrific, latest tale in a superb series. 

(Note: in recent news, the screen adaptation of the Mickey Haller books will now go ahead on Netflix, with Manuel Garcia-Rulfo stepping into the shoes of Matthew McConaughey from the film)

The ‘Lincoln lawyer’ has argued plenty of high-stakes cases in the past, but none hit as close to home as this. Haller’s own life and liberty are on the line when he’s charged with first-degree murder after the body of a former client is discovered in the trunk of his Lincoln town car following a traffic stop. Could he really have killed conman Sam Scales over a big debt? The DA’s office and hard-charging prosecutor ‘Death Row’ Dana Berg, the star legal eagle of the Major Crimes Unit, certainly believe so. And they seem to have plenty of forensic evidence to back their case.

Preparing for the trial of his life from behind bars, thanks to unaffordable bail set by a judge Haller embarrassed in the past, Haller has to rely more than ever on the team around him as well as his own wits to survive in and out of the courtroom. The Lincoln Lawyer has made plenty of enemies in the past, from criminals to cops and lawyers – has one of them set him up? And will others be lining up to take advantage and take him down, for good?

Connelly delivers a rip-snorting legal thriller that builds to plenty of courtroom parry and thrust, while also giving readers fascinating insights into trial preparation and strategy as Haller, along with his legal partner Jennifer Aronson, investigators Cisco Wojciechowski and Haller’s half-brother Harry Bosch, and case manager Lorna Taylor, try to uncover all the machinations going on and formulate a plan to save his skin. It’s a case they cannot afford to lose.

There’s a very contemporary feel as Connelly textures in news of current politics and COVID-19. There’s also action aplenty even before the jury hears opening statements, as well as Connelly’s keen insights into the realities of a flawed criminal justice system.

But it is the character relationships and the evolution of Haller from his first appearance as a gaming-the-system criminal attorney in 2005’s THE LINCOLN LAWYER that provide extra layers of enjoyment to an outstanding legal thriller series. 

Overall, THE LAW OF INNOCENCE is a strong reminder that in the world of courtroom thrillers, Connelly and Haller may be the best legal partnership around.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. His first non-fiction book, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, was published in 2020. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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