“A supremely intelligent, well-paced courtroom thriller by a modern master …”
— Publishers Weekly
“When it comes to series mysteries, there’s everybody else, and then there’s Michael Connelly.”
So, maybe you’re thinking you don’t want to read The Law of Innocence (Little, Brown and Company). Maybe you’re thinking that after 34 novels and years of trolling for plots played out on the same field — the streets, courts and police precincts of southern California — that Michael Connelly must be running out of gas to fuel his ideas and breathe fresh life into familiar characters.
Well, push those thoughts aside like a cleared-out traffic jam on an L.A. freeway. Connelly’s latest novel demonstrates why I say he’s the GOAT (“Greatest of All Time”) of police and legal procedural thrillers.
The Law of Innocence is Connelly’s sixth book featuring famed “Lincoln Lawyer” Mickey Haller and raises the intriguing possibility of the lawyer himself being charged with murder.
Few authors can get a story moving as fast as Connelly. Within a few pages, we know that Haller is in Trouble with a capital “T.” He has had a big win in a case. He’s leaving a celebration when an officer pulls him over for a missing license plate on his Lincoln. Some fluid is dripping from the rear of the car onto the ground. Sure enough, there’s a body in the trunk, and it turns out to be Haller’s former con artist client.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY BECOMES DEFENDANT
Haller knows he has been set up, but he can’t figure out why or how. The evidence against him grows stronger when the police can prove the victim was killed in Haller’s garage and died owing Haller’s firm a considerable amount of money. A vindictive judge slaps a $5 million bail charge on him, and Haller is forced to lead his own defense from a cell in L.A.’s notorious Twin Towers Correctional Center as the prosecution works overtime to imprison him for life.
Detective Harry Bosch, Connelly’s most famous creation, is a supporting actor in the story, and it’s memorable to see the brilliant, crusty, now-retired cop on the defense side again to help his younger half-brother. Bosch helps Haller unravel tenuous threads to a major scam that involves the mob, an old case and major blockades by the FBI, but coming up with evidence that he can use in court seems impossible.
Haller tries and fails at times to remain unbroken, both physically and mentally, and gains new insight into what his clients face, even when the case is won, while he’s insulated from their plights. This time, he’s both lawyer and defendant. The title goes to the stark truth of our legal system: Defendants aren’t found “innocent.” They’re found “not guilty,” which is to say there isn’t enough evidence to convict.
Haller wants more. He wants something the system was never designed to supply — vindication and exoneration. Even seeking that puts him at greater risk.
NO SURPRISE, CONNELLY’S LATEST DELIVERS
To say this is a typical Connelly novel is no bad thing. He crafts a plot like a Swiss watch and the main characters are heroic without being superheroes or cartoonish. The relationships among the characters in Haller’s life have nuance, and Connelly is among the best series authors at planting seeds for future stories and developments without it feeling forced or contrived.
In this story, Haller’s character flaws emerge starkly. He has been married three times, in large part because he’s really self-absorbed and has no problem manipulating people or applying situational ethics when the normal rules don’t fit his needs. It’s his consuming passion for his work and sense of fair play that redeem him — traits he shares with Harry Bosch.
A few of the plot threads, like Connelly’s use of the unfolding pandemic in the summer of 2020, don’t seem to deliver as much as you’d anticipate from the build-up, and the abrupt ending feels a bit rushed. Still, these are minor issues in a riveting story that’s hard to set aside, particularly for fans of legal thrillers who enjoy the chess-game maneuvers, more like bloody knife fights, that mark the combat between prosecution and defense when stakes are highest.
The Law of Innocence provides more evidence for a verdict that Connelly is the GOAT. If he suited up for Halloween, I hope he dressed as Tom Brady. We don’t have to know how he keeps doing it. Let’s just be glad he does.
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