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The Fifth Witness
Mickey Haller # 4
Michael Connelly
Read by Peter Giles

Hachette Audio
2011 / ISBN: 9781600247224
Legal Mystery / Los Angeles, CA / Contemporary

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: Mrs. Pena looked across the seat at me and held up her hands in a beseeching manner.

Attorney Mickey Haller has left defense law and has been spending his time defending homeowners against banks and agencies threatening to foreclose on their homes. One of his clients, Lisa Trammel, started marching in front of the bank who held her paper, to the point where they took out a restraining order against her being within 50 feet of the banks offices. When Mickey receives a call that Lisa has been arrested for the murder of the bank’s vice president in charge of foreclosures, not only is he back in defense law, but out of the rolling office of his Lincoln Town Car and in a formal office with his team. Although the defense team has slight physical evidence, Haller works on Lisa having been set up and there being a “fifth witness,” and someone else behind the murder.

Could there be a book with a more timely plot? Yet rather than seeming trite, Connolly makes foreclosures a fascinating backdrop for his latest Mickey Haller book. His inclusion of detailed information on everything from the processes for foreclosures, setting up book and movie deals to pay for legal defense, and legal and police procedures adds interest and veracity to the story, as well as to the character, but can also take you out of the plot when they become overlong.

Connolly constructs his characters very well. Because he provides their history, there is no feeling of having been dropped into the series midstream. You know who each character is and how they relate to one another. There are several character threads to the story, and you care about what happens in each case.

Connolly uses language well and writes very evocative descriptions but doesn’t include enough of them. He has an excellent ear for dialogue, occasional touches of humor such as when Mickey is asked whether the actor Matthew McConaughey would be a good choice to play Mickey in a movie—which, in fact, McConaughey is doing. There is also a fleeting cameo by Connolly’s character of Harry Bosch, Connolly’s primary series, and a reference to the artist Hieronymus Bosch, after whom the character is named.

The plot is very well constructed. It is particularly nice that Haller, and his team, during their investigation, stay within the law. There is no smart hacker on the side or “don’t ask how I got this” moment which is refreshing. Connolly writes the physical scenes, whether violence or seduction, well. It was curious and apparent that he was comfortable writing a scene of graphic violence, while seduction stopped at the bedroom door. There were very effective twists and, at one point, a good build of intensity. The ending, with very powerful plot twists, was extremely well done.

There were weaknesses to the story. Connolly heavily salts the story with mini-cliffhangers which are explained soon thereafter but became annoying. The character used the analogy of a court case being similar to the classical piece “Bolero” which consists of many small high point but finally builds to a dramatic crescendo. The story did follow that pattern, but there were times where it felt as though it took a long time to get there.

Keeping the audio critique separate; Mr. Giles was not the best possible reader. His tone often sounded belligerent or almost angry, when the scene didn’t warrant it. There were a couple times where it was difficult to distinguish between dialogue and narration. With a physical book, one can pass quickly through the detailed procedural information without losing the flow of the story. This is not as true of the audio version. Although the information was interesting, there were times it felt as though it overwhelmed the story.

The Fifth Witness was not Connolly’s best book and certainly did not come up to the level of The Lincoln Lawyer. It was, however, fascinating for its timeliness and engrossing enough to keep one reading.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The Lincoln Lawyer #1 [book]  [audio]
The Brass Verdict
#2  (Haller / Bosch) [audio]
The Reversal # #3 (Haller / Bosch) [book]  [audio]
The Fifth Witness
#4 [book]  [audio]
The Gods of Guilt #5 [audio]
9 Dragons
[Bosch series/ Haller has small part]  [Audio ]

Reviewed 2011
© 2011