THE LINCOLN LAWYER. By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. 416 pages. $26.95.
There is no client as scary as an innocent man. That s the philosophy Mickey Haller learned from the writings of his lawyer father, who died when Mickey was too young to know him.
Now Mickey himself is a lawyer, the subject of crime novelist Michael Connelly s departure from his Harry Bosch series.
Different from the virtuous Los Angeles police detective Bosch, Haller s a low-end defense attorney who advertises on buses in poor L.A. neighborhoods and works out of his Lincoln town car.
(He bought a small fleet of Lincolns at a low price and retires them when they hit 50,000 miles.)
He also has two ex-wives and a young daughter who still love him.
Haller is very good at defending low-life criminals, but he has a conscience.
Not only does he have a twinge now and then about sending them back on the street, but he worries obsessively about one case in which he convinced a possibly innocent client to accept a plea bargain and do jail time.
Then Haller hits pay dirt with Louis Roulet, a Beverly Hills playboy accused of trying to kill a woman he met in a bar. This one could mean big money, especially if it goes to a long trial.
No matter that it took Haller a bribe to a bail bondsman to get the franchise, but he soon finds a lot more than he bargained for.
Haller doesn t know whether Roulet is guilty or innocent. He doesn t want to know, but Roulet tells him at a crucial moment, and Haller s life will never be the same.
It s not just a matter of guilt vs. innocence. There are also questions regarding several other unsolved crimes, possibly related to Roulet s case.
The trial itself, which takes up most of the book s second half, only manages to muddy the waters.
The author calls the courtroom a world without truth, reinforcing what a first-year law student learns the legal system has little to do with justice and rules of evidence have nothing to do with the truth.
Haller, who has long been using this knowledge with considerable success, finds in this case that winning can be losing personally as well as financially.
Connelly s ending is a little too neat and moral, perhaps, but his writing is superb, his dialogue vivid. His depictions of deceptions small and large, to oneself and others, are part of what makes this new work so compelling.
We can only hope that this will be the first in a series to stand beside the Harry Bosch books.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Robert Croan is a senior editor of the Post-Gazette.