- 20 Nov 20
The Life You Save Might Be Your Own. Another Winner From The Mighty Michael Connelly.
There are many ways to open a book. You can set it in the best of times and the worst of times. You can have some plump lad in a dressing gown carry a shaving bowl across the landing. You might even have a deity wave his or her hand to create the heaven and the earth. Flann O’Brien even argued that a good book may have three openings, which is all well and good, but it’s hard to beat the cops finding a dead body in the boot of a car, which is what happens in Michael Connelly’s latest outing, The Law Of Innocence. The plot kind of writes itself from there, really, although Connelly – one of the masters of this sort of thing – probably helped a bit.
The boot - or trunk - in question belongs to Mickey Haller, Connelly’s main protagonist who isn’t Detective Harry Bosch, or the lesser-spotted reporter Jack McEvoy. You might have seen him portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in the so-so 2011 movie, The Lincoln Lawyer, and we last saw him on the page as a secondary character in 2019’s The Night Fire.
Heading home from celebrating another successful case, Haller is pulled over by one Officer Milton. Haller reckons, incorrectly, that the officer thinks he's been drinking, although Milton states he stopped him because of a missing reg plate. When what looks like blood is spotted dripping from the car, things get a little more serious. Milton puts the cuffs on and, despite Haller’s protestations, opens the boot using the good old 'exigent circumstances' excuse. The body in the trunk belongs to Sam Scales, and Haller ends up in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles, where he quickly hires tough guy Bishop as security for $400 a week, as the Towers are no place for an officer of the law, even if he does work on the defence side of the aisle.
What follows is mostly a court room procedural, told from Haller’s point of view. In addition to Bishop, he also has fellow lawyer Jennifer Aronson, and investigator Cisco Wojciechowski on his team. Long-time Connelly fans will be glad to see Haller’s half-brother Bosch lending a hand, and his ex-wife, prosecutor Maggie McPherson, who takes a leave of absence to move across the court room and help Haller out. They are faced with an opposing team led by Dana Berg, who is convinced beyond any doubt - often angrily so - of Haller’s guilt.
As Haller’s good suits become more ill-fitting – he’s loosing weight thanks to the Towers’ baloney sandwich diet – the case against him gets tighter. There is testimony from a neighbour and the damning fact that a bullet has been found in the garage where Haller usually parks the Lincoln in question. What Haller can’t figure out is why Milton pulled him over in the first place, so it’s essential for their case that they get a hold of the video from both Milton’s body and car cameras.
Haller gets a respite from The Towers when he catches out his opposing number over supposedly privileged calls which results in Judge Warfield reducing the bail to something manageable. It turns out that the dead man Scales had a history with Haller, and, despite the back and forth over his missing wallet and the prosecution's attempts to stick Haller with the even worse charge of murder with special circumstances, i.e. he stood to gain financially from the crime, the goo under his fingernails leads to a gangster named Opparizio – who Haller made a fool of previously in court – and an F.B.I. investigation into something bigger.
As I said, it almost writes itself. If you’ve read any Connelly before at all - and surely you must have, although it’s not a pre-requirement in order to enjoy this one - then you don’t need me to tell you that you’re in a safe pair of hands. There’s enough courtroom to and fro to keep you going, Haller is easy to root for, and his surrounding cast are all well fleshed-out. There’s a very good reason why Connelly sells so many books; he rarely - if ever – drops the ball. I started and finished this within twenty-four hours, which is always a good sign. You really can’t go wrong when his name is on the jacket.