The Fifth Witness Review
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Now that you’ve had a chance to see Matthew McConaughey play Mickey Haller on the big screen in The Lincoln Lawyer, you’re probably eager to dive into another one of Michael Connelly’s engrossing crime novels—preferably one that places the slick defense attorney back in the courtroom. Fortunately, there’s a copy of Connelly’s fourth Mickey Haller thriller, The Fifth Witness, waiting for you at your favorite book store. And whether you’re a long-time Connelly fan or a new convert (brought in with a little help from McConaughey), you’re sure to find yourself caught up in Haller’s latest case.

In Los Angeles, crime may not decrease because of a recession—but the number of criminals who are willing and able to pay for a lawyer does. So Haller has had to take on foreclosure clients to pay the bills.

Since then, business has been booming—so much, in fact, that he’s had to take on an idealistic young associate, Jennifer Aronson, to help him handle the workload. And when one of their foreclosure cases turns into a murder case, the whole team is called in to help out.

Lisa Trammel is a single mother who’s about to lose her house. The process has left her angry and frustrated, and it’s inspired her to protest the shady business practices that have left people like her homeless. So when the banker who’s handling her case is murdered one morning, she’s the first suspect.

The evidence against Lisa is damning—but if anyone can sway a jury, it’s Mickey Haller. And when he discovers that the victim had some questionable associates, he begins to build his case.

The Fifth Witness is another cleverly plotted thriller by one of today’s most reliable crime novelists. In dealing with timely topics like the ongoing foreclosure scandal, Connelly makes the usual murder case seem all the more absorbing. After all, anyone who’s seen the recent documentary Inside Job will be able to understand Lisa Trammel’s outrage. Still, like her increasingly conflicted defense attorney, you’ll keep hoping that she really is innocent, as she claims to be—and that Mickey will be able to uncover a meaner, darker, less sympathetic killer. As frustrating and obnoxious as the character can be at times, you’ll want her to deserve a “not guilty” verdict.

Meanwhile, you’ll savor every clever, cunning move in Mickey’s defense. Sure, he sometimes plays dirty (much to the chagrin of both his young associate and his ex-wife, Maggie), but it’s fun to see him at work, using every trick in the book to get his client acquitted. At times, the story gets a bit bogged down in the details of the trial—in the witnesses and testimonies that don’t offer any new information to help propel an otherwise gripping plot. But the case is so fascinating that you won’t really mind.

Even when the pace slows, though, the characters will keep you interested. After working for the “good guys” (with half-brother Harry Bosch) in The Reversal, Mickey struggles even more with his role as a defense attorney—and the way his ex-wife and daughter see him.

The end, then, comes with a couple of unexpected twists—both for the case and for the characters. Though they’ll definitely come as a surprise to readers (especially the latter), they also make perfect sense. And they’ll leave you eager to see where Connelly will take Haller and his motley band of associates next.

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