Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home. Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too, and he's certain he's on the right trail.
In The Fifth Witness, Mickey is going about business as usual, doing especially well representing clients fighting foreclosure of their homes. Lisa Trammel is one such foreclosure client until circumstances make her a foreclosure client also fighting a charge of murdering a banker.
Mickey pulls out all of the stops to defend his client while still trying to spend time with his daughter and woo back his ex-wife...but everything is not what it seems in this well-paced work.
I made it through this book quickly as I followed the twists and turns trying to determine the outcome before I reached the end of the book. Kept me going...
Mr. Haller doesn't have an office, he conducts his business in the back of a Lincoln. Mickey has a brand new associate right out of law school, an investigator, who is also a biker, and Maggie, an ex-wife with benefits, and I don't mean a 401K.
One of his foreclosure clients is accused of the murder of a banker who held her mortgage. So Mickey has to put his foreclosure business on hold and get back in the courtroom. He goes up against a good friend of his ex-wife who happens to be an assistant DA.
This is one of the best books of the courtroom drama genre I have ever read. The trial goes this way and that way between exhilaration and despair as Mickey and the prosecutor hook it up and try and outwit and outmaneuver each other in the courtroom ruled by "a judge with a grudge." The stakes on trial go up every day. There are no slow boring parts. It was literally a page turner. In fact I liked it so much that even though I had a library copy I bought it on my Kindle. There is nothing finer than reading a book on a Kindle (I imagine the other e-readers are similar.) You can just fly through a book.
I give this book a five out of five. I don't give too many fives, so go to your library and get a copy.
If you've read the earlier Haller books, you won't see very much that you haven't seen before: twist endings, crisp dialogue, ambiguous ethics. But chances are you'll like The Fifth Witness just as much as you liked the other books.
(Note: I received a review copy of this book before I wrote the review.)
Two sort of related points:
First, I made a point of not seeing the movie based on Connelly's previous novel - “The Lincoln Lawyer”. The evening of the day in when I finished this book, I went to see that movie, and it was pretty good. Reflecting, I realized that turning “The 5th Witness” into a movie sequel will be a no brainer; the book can be immediately transformed into a script with only a minimum of stage direction (a couple of “close-up on Haller's face as he briefly struggles with indecision”, “fade from crowd scene, with focus on avid reporters thrusting microphones”, etc.). I'll still go to see the sequel, and I'll still buy Connelly's next book, but I sure hope this doesn't mean that Connelly is going to go all Crichton on us. About mid-career, and especially after “Jurassic Park”, I couldn't read one of Michael Crichton's books without seeing “Enter stage left” written between the lines, and the writing suffered for it. While Connelly hasn't succumb to the temptation yet, it must be there, and I can't think of a single scene in this novel which would need to be cut from the film, or any other scenes needing to be added.
Second, as I was about half way through the book, and enjoying it, I saw in my Sunday newspaper that “The 5th Witness” was Number One on the NY Times bestseller list. Once upon a long time ago, I actively avoided reading anything on the bestsellers list. These books were for the masses, those of unrefined tastes. That lasted for about 3 months, and then I moved on to the stage in which bestsellers were a closeted and guilty pleasure. A don't ask, don't tell sort of situation within my crowd, where you would never freely admit to reading a bestseller (or at least act surprised if a book you read ended up on the list) and would never suggest that another read such books, either. Though you had your suspicions. Finally, with the maturity which comes with becoming mature (you see why I haven't yet written a bestseller) I've realized that a whole lot of bestsellers are just that because they are really enjoyable books. While there are exceptions that prove the rule (think the inexplicable popularity of “The DaVinci Code”, especially in comparison to the vastly more satisfying “Angels and Demons”), I can see why “The 5th Witness” made the list, and why it is deserving of such recognition. [This is NOT to say that the same rule of thumb applies to the non-fiction bestseller list. If you've ever heard the name of the (putative) author of a book on this list, run away. Again, there are exceptions, this time for respected journalists, and then only if they are in their decrepitude and writing their memoirs.]
Get “The 5th Witness”. You'll enjoy it.
The Fifth Witness finds Mickey working on stalling or nullifying home foreclosures. With the downturn in the economy, he's got no lack of business. Lisa Trammel was one of his first clients. Eight months later, she needs his criminal defense skills instead. She's been charged with the murder of one of the officers of the bank who were foreclosing on her. It doesn't look good for her, but Mickey follows his cardinal rule - don't ask if they did it.
Connelly has taken a very current issue and created an absolutely riveting, page turning tale. The characters are very well drawn. Lisa Trammel is unlikeable - her dialogue and actions paint a vivid image.The supporting cast at the office is quirky, eclectic and loyal. The secondary personal storyline involving Mickey's ex wife Maggie 'McFierce' reveals the 'other' side of Haller. I enjoyed the courtroom drama and antics - you can almost feel the atmosphere in Connelly's writing. The plot is full of twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the very end. And the end also provides the best teaser for the next Haller book!
Quite simply it was a five star read for me - well, actually a five star listen as I chose the audio version of this book. Peter Giles was the reader - for me he is the voice of Haller. His voice is slightly gravelly, a little time worn, very expressive and easy to understand. He easily conveys the emotion and action with his tone.
I also thought the murder plot was not half bad and the trial was lively and entertaining. It was a good escapist read and I may now try another Mickey Haller.