In this, the fourth book in the Mickey Haller series, the credit crunch is hitting everybody. Haller isn't getting too many criminal cases so his business is now handling civil cases where banks are imposing foreclosures - sometimes illegally - on the poor individuals who can't keep up their mortgage repayments. Haller has one such client, Lisa Trammel, and he's managed to keep the bank at bay for eight months while he assembles a case against both them and ALOFT - the company handling the foreclosure on behalf of the bank.
Then comes the hammer blow: the bank's CEO, Mitchell Bondurant is found murdered in the company car park, and Lisa has been arrested for the offence. Haller now has a new criminal case on his hands...
Much of the ensuing action, naturally, takes place in court as Haller brilliantly conducts the defence while simultaneously trying to win back one of his ex-wives, Maggie 'McFierce' McPherson. All the characters, for me, are as well-drawn as they can be in genre fiction, where the emphasis is necessarily on the plot. And boy, what a plot this has. The one weakness lies in the fact that the case against Trammel goes to court with the prosecution initially armed with no more than circumstantial evidence. Would that really happen? But this is a minor quibble; the book is fantastic entertainment.
A plot development involving the sale of the trial rights to Hollywood allows Mickey to hire an office from which he and his legal team can conduct their defence. And Connelly inserts a superb in-joke relating to Matthew McConaughey into the mix.
The author has written this in the first person and it's Haller's voice we hear, outlining his strategies, explaining his moves, but crucially still managing to shield some of his thoughts so that we are regularly supplied with surprises.
The pay off to this brilliantly written legal thriller is well worth waiting for, with, if I'm stretching a point, no less than three twists. All in all, I would not be putting it too strongly in comparing this favourably with John Grisham's early stuff, when he was still in his prime and producing great novels. Indeed, Connelly is perhaps even better than Grisham in this genre now.
I found this more satisfying than the last Haller novel - `The Reversal' - which, although an excellent mix of legal thriller and police investigation, didn't tie up some loose ends to my satisfaction. No such charge can be levelled against this volume.
The Harry Bosch series may soon be drawing to a close (although the first two chapters of the next Bosch novel - 'The Drop' - due in October, are teasingly appended here), with Harry now close to retirement age. But in Mickey Haller the author has created a great new character, and the series also cleverly allows room for the occasional cameo appearance by Bosch - as is the case in `The Fifth Witness'.
The cover claims Connelly is `The Greatest Living American Crime Writer' (a quote from the `Daily Mirror') and on this form it's hard to argue with that statement.