Reviewed by Ian Lipke
I have lost count of the number of novels Michael Connelly has written. I can remember such classic stories as The Poet and The Scarecrow. I remember claiming that with these books, Connelly had peaked, when in fact he was just getting started. With the publication of Fair Warning, I thought he was beginning to produce weaker characters and less interesting plots. Now, The Law of Innocence has arrived and sets a whole new standard.
Connelly is known in most countries as the writer who understands precisely what goes in courts under the State jurisdictions in many parts of the USA. He knows what wrinkles he can insert to upset the flow of justice. All in the interests of fiction, of course. His character Mickey Haller usually delights in offering a creative defence to assist his client in escaping his prosecutors.
An encyclopedic knowledge of the court system exists alongside an equally extensive and deep knowledge of the operations of police departments. He understands police chains of command, the elements of a crime scene and how they coalesce, and he has a phenomenal grasp of police and how they work together.
Connelly has no ‘on the job’ experience of court or police matters, yet he writes effortlessly about both. In the current volume, Haller, having been pulled over at the side of the road by a traffic policeman, is found to have a murdered man in his car boot. He prepares his defence from a prison cell for much of the book.
The characters in his current volume are drawn with an expert hand. The policeman Officer Roy Milton who arrests Mickey Haller is the typical hardcase who does his job with no other expectation than to complete his time. He is comfortable testifying among Criminal Court surroundings and knows that the best answer to defence counsel’s questions is the shortest. He is finely drawn.
Haller’s females are seen through his relationships with them. There is some sort of magnetic attraction between Haller and his women that other men would pay big money to discover. On pp 89 – 90 he reminds his current squeeze, Kendall, that they have broken up. She asks to be dropped off at his flat. When he mentions that he had to go there to change his suit, she remarks, “Good then, you’ll be taking off your clothes.” Haller’s office manager and former lover works happily alongside former wife, Maggie McFierce, in Haller’s interests. All three have large physical appetites and are all so accommodating. Yet they appear in the book as real and convincing characters. Mickey Haller’s daughter has grown up in this book and shines as Haller’s key supporter. Prosecutor Dana Berg is young, inexperienced, and has made it her mission to prove Haller’s guilt. She, too, is a fine creation, her inexperience showing in her non-deviation from her planned approach when circumstances require her to ‘think outside the box’. Unconscious humour is part of the package that Connelly has given her. The short passage when she instructs Officer Milton not to answer Haller’s question, “How are you today?” (53) was priceless.
I have concentrated on the women characters. The men are drawn every bit as fully. Harry Bosch is particularly interesting. He is rarely on the scene but we always feel his presence. He is like a dark cloud that hovers behind proceedings but unearths the pieces the puzzle lacks. That he has been a character in Connelly’s books for many decades almost makes his physical presence in this book a superfluity.
Connelly has followed a maxim that he has used time and time again. In effect, that one character, and one alone, will always need to be at the centre of the reader’s attention. Mickey Haller dominates. He dreams up ideas that others would never think of. He triggers actions. He sees in his mind the effects of the measures he has introduced but does not always share his vision. He is a powerful character. He has to be to be able to meet his foes and his women as fiercely as they meet him.
Michael Connelly is as complex as his plots are devious. I recommend this book without reservation.
By Michael Connelly
Allen & Unwin
$32.99; 432 pp