The Law of Innocence (Lincoln Lawyer)
“Connelly spins a story in which the risk is life itself, and the collateral damage may be integrity. Watching Mickey Haller work out how to balance the two makes this a compelling crime novel that lingers in value long after the last page.”
What is the difference between innocent and not guilty? Michael Connelly’s The Law of Innocence, extending his Lincoln Lawyer series, confronts Mickey Haller with that important issue in painful ways. Mickey knows he hasn’t murdered a former client who never paid the bill for Mickey’s defense work. But when the man’s corpse is found by police, jammed in the trunk of the Lincoln that Mickey drives, with the killing bullet smashed on Mickey’s own garage floor . . . who’s going to believe he didn’t do the job?
Connelly writes two significant California mystery series. One features police investigator Harry Bosch, always in pursuit of criminals and punishment for crime. Mickey, on the other hand, is a defense attorney whose demand for justice takes a very different form: If the State can’t prove a case against his clients, they shouldn’t lose their freedoms. That’s the “not guilty” side: when a jury concludes the crime hasn’t been successfully (“beyond reasonable doubt”) pinned on someone.
The frustration for Mickey in this book is, he knows he’s innocent. A handful of people—his staff, his ex-wife Maggie, his daughter, and thank goodness, his half-brother Harry Bosch—accept this innocence. But the frame against him is so clever and complete that even his attorney friends have doubts about him.
In placing Mickey in the hands of the law and a furious prosecutor who’s convinced he committed the crime, Bosch sends his protagonist to prison for months. Living on three meals a day of bologna sandwiches makes Mickey’s clothing hang loose, and he struggles to stay alive as the people he’s offended in the past, including sheriffs who run the prison system, see a chance for brutal revenge.
Connelly spins this series as a first-person narrative, which slows the pace. There are plenty of action scenes, but also a lot more inner conversation than in the Harry Bosch books. Micky reflects:
“I had no illusions about my innocence. I knew it was something only I could know for sure. And I knew that it wasn’t a perfect shield against injustice. It was no guarantee of anything. The clouds were not going to open for some sort of divine light of intervention.
“I was on my own.
“. . . In the law of innocence, for every man not guilty of a crime, there is a man out there who is. And to prove true innocence, the guilty man must be found and exposed to the world.”
The back story of the murder itself—who profits, from what looks like a pure case of revenge against Mickey?—must be determined in order to find that “guilty man.” Working under a near-impossible deadline and directed by Mickey from his cell much of the time, his team quickly finds promising threads. But they lead, in multiple ways, to dead ends.
Along the way, two big changes take place in the people around him, as Mickey sweats his way to discovery of the pieces: his half-brother Harry Bosch aggressively takes his side (even financially), and Mickey falls back in love with his daughter’s mother. The feeling might even be mutual. Will it make them more successful in solving the crime in time to get Mickey off the hot seat, though?
Passionate followers of the Bosch series may not find much to enjoy in The Law of Innocence: Bosch’s appearances are brief and not very interesting, compared to the character himself. That’s part of the cost of Connelly’s choice to write Mickey “from the inside.” The criminal enterprise that forms the back story of the murder is also rather weak. That said, Connelly carries out what he’s endlessly powerful in doing: He spins a story in which the risk is life itself, and the collateral damage may be integrity. Watching Mickey Haller work out how to balance the two makes this a compelling crime novel that lingers in value long after the last page.