The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 5, 2011

Phyllis Seesengood: Lawyer tackles high profile case in Connelly novel

JOPLIN, Mo. — The fourth “Lincoln Lawyer” novel, “The Fifth Witness” by Michael Connelly (audiobook), finds Mickey Haller practicing mortgage law.

Times are tough for criminal defense attorneys and Haller is no exception. Criminals can’t afford to hire LA attorney Haller since the downturn of the economy; consequently, his criminal defense practice had dwindled dramatically.

Haller is now defending homeowners from fraudulent or unethical foreclosures from unscrupulous banks.

Familiar characters from previous novels are present, including his two ex-wives, Lorna Taylor, secretary for his law firm and Maggie McPherson, a prosecutor, Rojas, his streetwise driver, and his colorful investigator, Cisco. Haller’s half-brother, Detective Harry Bosch, even makes a brief cameo in the novel.

Haller has also taken on a new assistant, Jennifer Aronson. Haller works out of one his Lincoln Town Cars, hence the nickname Lincoln Lawyer, but he suddenly finds himself defending a media-hungry, high-profile client. He decides this requires quarters and a more permanent address, and rents an office.

His first foreclosure client, Lisa Trammel, age 35, lost her job as a teacher and was deserted by her husband. She is accused of murdering with a hammer Mitchell Bondurant, the banker in charge of her loan.

Because Lisa had organized a nationally known protest and had even threatened the victim, the bank has a restraining order against her. Lisa comes under the influence of Herb Dahl, a rather shady movie agent who convinces Lisa that a movie deal can make her rich. Lisa had already signed contracts with Haller who is counting on her movie deals, etc. to pay his fees.

Haller learns that the dead banker also owed big money to a businessman with connections to organized crime. In spite of the fact that Lisa has damning eyewitness and forensic evidence against her, has she been set up to take the fall for a murder she didn’t commit?

Haller puts his team into high gear to clear Lisa. Though he harbors doubts about his client’s innocence, there is nothing that will keep him from providing her with the best possible defense.  

As the trial begins, Mickey Haller faces prosecutor Andrea Freeman, a formidable opponent in the courtroom. However, Haller is a clever and smart attorney and the tense courtroom drama keeps the reader alert and engaged.

Through the voice of his protagonist, Michael Connelly discusses detailed legal issues and does an incredible job of explaining technical and complicated terms so they can be easily understood.

A shocking and unpredictable ending comes after the final verdict. Connelly is an excellent author and a master storyteller who has written an exciting and complex courtroom thriller relevant to current events.

Peter Giles does a skillful narration of “The Fifth Witness,” maintaining each character’s personality throughout the book. The novel is available in print and audio formats from the Joplin Public Library.

Phyllis Seesengood is a technical services librarian with the Joplin Public Library.

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