Friday, 5 October 2012

BOOK: The Fifth Witness, Michael Connolly (5/10)

Why did I read it?
A friend gave me this to read after I enjoyed reading (and watching the film version of) Michael Connolly's earlier Michael Haller story The Lincoln Lawyer.

What's it all about?
Michael Haller, a regular character in Connolly's novels is an LA criminal defence attorney working on the defence for victims of foreclosure at the offset of the story due to the abundance of work and low amount of work required on his part for early payment. His legal work reverts to type when one of his foreclosure clients is charged with murdering one of her banks employees.

Should you read it?
Haller appears in two novels in between The Lincoln Lawyer and The Fifth Witness which I have not read but it is clear that Haller did not learn the lessons of Lincoln Lawyer, in fact its as if that the events of that book never happened although they are occasionally referenced in Witness. At the end of Lincoln Lawyer Haller seems to regret not ever caring if a client is actually innocent or guilty and regrets cashing in in the misfortune of others. However, in Witness he is milking the foreclosure market by doing the bare minimal to prolong foreclosures knowing full well he is only delaying the inevitable. He also states on several occasions that he does not care if his client is innocent or not it's just his job to get them off. While I agree with this principle, it shows an inconsistency in the character that is difficult to get past. Another example is Haller's music preference, in Lawyer he is interested in hip-hop and this is referenced several times while in Witness several songs are referred to but not one is of the hip-hop variety.

Rant not quite over yet, Haller's case attracts the attention of Hollywood and he meets with a producer to discuss rights. Connolly makes a cardinal sin by having the producer suggest that Matthew McConaughey play Haller should he land the rights. As we all know, McConaughey actually did play Haller in Lawyer, which came out just before Witness. This line was almost too cheesy to digest, I already picture McConaughey as Haller when reading the picture without needing this misguided attempt to be clever or even worse funny.

Onto the story which is actually half decent. The court scenes take up the majority of the book as Haller struggles to defend his client against a clever opponent armed with damning evidence all the time while having his case undermined by his client and outside sources. The court scenes are exciting and made the book a real page turner. Unfortunately they run out of steam at the end as Haller delivers his coup de grace court tactics. Also, following the court verdict the true ending of the book feels contrived and tagged on for closure.

A reasonable read let down in places and not as enjoyable as The Lincoln Lawyer.

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