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"The Fifth Witness" is a weak one

  • Jul 11, 2011
In what is arguably the weakest book in a series that began with "The Lincoln lawyer" criminal defense attorney Michael Haller takes on the murder case of Lisa Trammel.

Lisa Trammel was already a client for Haller's exploding business of stopping foreclosure. It is not work Haller likes but the criminal stuff was in short supply due to the bad economy. That same hideous economy created a huge foreclosure business caseload and that has kept things goings for his law practice. Abandoned by her husband and with a nine year old son, Lisa had come to him desperate to save her three bedroom house from being taken in foreclosure by Westland Financial. Lisa has not been the best client Haller could have wanted. Instead of quietly sitting back and letting Haller do the work in court, Lisa has become a publicity hound. She started a grass root internet campaign against those involved in the foreclosure crisis, led demonstrations outside the bank, and in general has refused to take direction from Haller while annoying him with constant questions involving the strategy of her case and other issues. Among many of her targets is Mitchell Bondurant senior vice president at Westland Financial.

In charge of the mortgage loan mess at Westland Financial, his name is on all of Haller's court paperwork. As far as Haller knew, Lisa Trammel did not know Bondurant and was obeying the restraining order the bank had gotten by staying away from their property. Now the man is dead in a parking garage and Trammel has been arrested for murder. As in earlier books in the series, Haller continues to preach his philosophy that in his role as defense attorney he does not care if his client is innocent or guilty and does not want to know. He does not want anyone involved on his legal team to "grow a conscience." The job of the defense is to plant enough seeds of doubt with the jury during trial, if it gets that far, that the jury will not find his client guilty. Innocence or not has nothing to do with the case or his actions.

In between defending Lisa Trammel and discovering dirt on others involved, Haller spends a large portion of the book lecturing on the foreclosure crisis currently still gripping the nation. One sided at best, such ranting lectures will no doubt polarize readers as well as pad the word count while stopping the story dead in its tracks. These information dump rants are numerous and repeatedly kill any movement of the story forward while also greatly over simplifying the situation. Story momentum is also frequently stopped dead by Haller's constant self-references as well as public statements to others on his team that as a defense attorney he does not care if his clients are guilty or innocent. A theme that has been hammered to death for several books now.

A theme that is also blasted apart in the last dozen or so pages when Haller does something so unbelievable it creates a laugh out loud moment for many long time readers of this series. The result is a read that is average at best and one that is far below the good quality novel readers expect from the very talented Michael Connelly. While an average read created by Michael Connelly is far better than a lot of what is out there these days, this book is a real disappointment as the author can and has done so much better in the past.

One hopes this is not a sign of things to come where this author is weakened by the current state of publishing today that demands major name authors to crank out multiple books in multiple series faster and faster. That short sighted publishing philosophy weakens the quality of books in general and harms readers in the long run.

Material supplied by the good people of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011
Author of the short story "By The Light Of The Moon" in the anthology CARPATHIAN SHADOWS VOLUME 2 available in print and e-book formats.

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Kevin R. Tipple ()
Ranked #90
My stories have appeared in such magazines such as “Lynx Eye,” “Starblade,” “Show and Tell,” and "The Writer's Post Journal" among others and online at … more
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Starred Review. Connelly's compelling fourth legal thriller featuring Mickey Haller (after Reversal) finds the maverick L.A. lawyer who uses his Lincoln town car as an office specializing in "foreclosure defense." Haller's first foreclosure client, Lisa Trammel, is fighting hard to keep her home, maybe too hard. The bank has gotten a restraining order to stop Trammel's protests, and she becomes the prime suspect when Mitchell Bondurant, a mortgage banker, is killed with a hammer in his office parking lot. A ton of evidence points to Trammel, but Haller crafts an impressive defense that includes "the fifth witness" of the title. Connelly has a sure command of the legal and procedural details of criminal court, and even manages to make the arcane, shady world of foreclosure interesting. While the prose may lack some of the poetic nuance of his early novels, the plot is worthy of a master storyteller. The film of The Lincoln Lawyer, the first Mickey Haller novel, releases in March. (Apr.)
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ISBN-10: 0316069353
ISBN-13: 978-0316069359
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

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