I read Michael Connolly’s The Lincoln Lawyer this weekend and I liked it a lot, at least up to the last couple of chapters. But let me tell you what I really enjoyed before I start quibbling about what didn’t work for me.
First of all, it’s a movie now and the casting of Matthew McConaughey is spot on. Mick Haller, the main character, tells the story from the first person point of view. His voice, and that of McConaughey, work beautifully together — there’s a slightly southern formality to Haller’s dialogue that really clicked. (It made me wonder, short of making a movie, if maybe I could entice the actors that best fit my mental image of my characters to do a video book trailer and let my readers ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the characters as I imagine them. Peter Dinklage and José Zúñiga, are you listening?)
The book starts off slowly but it draws in the reader deftly. And despite the hype, it’s not really a thriller as much as a character study and a damn good mystery.
We spend the first hundred pages or so getting to know Mick Haller. He’s a typical defence lawyer (and having been one, I can say that).
He doesn’t want to know whether his clients are guilty or not; that ties his hands. And he’s like any other freelancer; he never knows where his next client is coming from. He operates on a carefully constructed net of favours and referrals with some shady co-dependent characters, all waiting for the next ‘franchise,’ as they call it — the big-paying client. (Lincoln, by the way, refers to Haller’s car, although it could also be a reference to ‘Honest Abe,’ who was a trial lawyer, too, before he entered politics.)
When Haller finally lands that big case and discovers that a client may actually be innocent, everything changes. Innocence, in Haller’s world, is a mine-field.
The courtroom scenes in the book are extremely well-crafted. Cross-examinations are written the way they’re really done. Lawyers and prosecutors ask cautious questions, trying to trap witnesses in their own words, and occasionally, to their detriment, they ask one question too many. The judges and peripheral characters are fully formed; the legal world utterly believable. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.
But best of all, Mick Haller is complex, interesting. He’s likeable, ethically challenged and highly conscious of his own weaknesses. He’s a great character, and I see a series in his future.
But I do have some minor complaints and one major one.
A realtor is able to ‘break’ into a house because he kept the keys from the realtor’s combination box from a visit eighteen months earlier. That required me to accept that the listing agent and owner didn’t notice that the keys were missing or track them down; that the realtor kept keys to a house anticipating some future need for them, that the house would later be Haller’s, and that that particular realtor and Haller would end up working together. I wasn’t able to suspend disbelief through all those stages.
And the old joke about the difference between a lawyer and a catfish (one’s a scum-sucking bottom feeder and the other one’s a fish) was told three times, at least one too many for the point Connolly was trying to make.
But those are minor points. My major complaint about this book is a common one and that’s the final rush to a conclusion. After all the careful construction of the first 300 pages, Connolly races to his final twist. It didn’t work as well for me as it should have. And the epilogue was wholly unnecessary, as so many of them are.
But all that aside, it was a great read. I stayed up late to find out what happened, and isn’t that the mark of a good book?
Connolly can write, and that makes this book worth reading. According to the reviews, Matthew McConaughey proves he can act. And that mental image of McConaughey carrying the story sure made it easy on the eyes.
Check out Penguin Canada’s book trailer for The Beggar’s Opera here! It’s pretty cool!