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The Fifth Witness

by Michael Connelly

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3,2511044,191 (3.85)59
Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home. Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too, and he's certain he's on the right trail.… (more)
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English (101)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (106)
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Print: 4/5/2011; 9780316069359; Little, Brown and Company; 421 pages.
Audio: 4/5/2011; Hachette Book Group; 9781611138207; Duration 13:56:58; 12 parts.
Feature Film: No.
Series: Mickey Haller Book 4; (Harry Bosch universe book 22)

Main characters:
Mickey Haller - Defense lawyer
Maggie McFerson – Mickey’s X-wife.

Mickey has left the hardcore criminals behind to work on the foreclosure cases, a prominent and common ill of the times—Connelly is excellent at pulling current events into his stories. But then, one of his foreclosure clients is accused of murdering a mortgage banker and he feels compelled to take on her case.
It’s another interesting, and engaging Connelly novel.

Michael Connelly (7/21/56). This is Connelly’s 4th Mickey Haller (Lincoln Lawyer) novel and 22st Bosch Universe novel. (Only leaving out a Henry Peirce novel which I’m not convinced will never get swept into the universe.)

Peter Giles. Books on Tape says, “Peter Giles is an actor and voice-over artist originally from Vancouver, Canada. His credits as an actor include The Life & Times of Tim, Portlandia, and Man Seeking Woman.”

Mystery, thriller, fiction

Los Angeles

Foreclosure, banking, murder, forensics, court proceedings


From Chapter 1 “The Magic Words”
"'Tell her I will try my best,' I said. 'Tell her I am pretty certain I will be able to stop the auction and challenge the validity of the foreclosure. It will at least slow things down. It will give us time to work up a long-range plan. Maybe get her back on her feet.'
I nodded and waited while Rojas translated. I had been using Rojas as my driver and interpreter ever since I had bought the advertising package on the Spanish radio stations.
I felt the cell phone in my pocket vibrate. My upper thigh read this as a text message as opposed to an actual phone call, which had a longer vibration. Either way I ignored it. When Rojas completed the translation, I jumped in before Mrs. Pena could respond.
'Tell her that she has to understand that this isn't a solution to her problems. I can delay things and we can negotiate with her bank. But I am not promising that she won't lose the house. In fact, she's already lost the house. I'm going to get it back but then she'll have to face the bank.'
Rojas translated, making hand gestures where I had not. The truth was that Mrs. Pena would have to leave eventually. It was just a question of how far she wanted me to take it. Personal bankruptcy would tack another year onto foreclosure defense. But she didn't have to decide that now.
'Now tell her that I also need to be paid for my work. Give her the schedule. A thousand up front and the monthly payment plan.'
I looked out at the house again. Mrs. Pena had invited me inside but I preferred meeting in the Lincoln Town Car BPS. That stood for Ballistic Protection Series. I bought it used from the widow of a murdered enforcer with the Sinaloa cartel. There was armored plating in the doors, and the windows were constructed of three layers of laminated glass. They were bulletproof. The windows in Mrs. Pena's pink house were not. The lesson learned from the Sinaloa man was that you don't leave the car unless you have to.”

I gave this book 5 stars. Maybe because there have been fewer of them then of the Bosch series making them still a bit of a novelty; I find the plots of these Lincoln Lawyer episodes slightly more interesting. ( )
  TraSea | Apr 29, 2024 |
Times are difficult for defense attorney Mickey Haller: the economy is on a downward slope and even criminals seem less inclined to spend money for an attorney, so Mickey is forced to turn toward the less prestigious but still lucrative field of foreclosure disputes. It might not be as glamorous, but exchanging quality for quantity helps in keeping up with the bills - that is, until something changes in the daily routine: his client Lisa Trammel, one of those battling with foreclosure, is charged with the murder of Mitchell Bondurant, the banker dealing with the reclamation of her home.

Ms. Trammel has become something of a public figure since she opened a website catering to people battling with foreclosure, and mounted several protests against Bondurant’s bank, becoming so obnoxious that a restrictive order has been issued against Lisa. Once the body of Bondurant is found in the bank’s parking lot, the police investigation turns immediately toward Trammel, even though she loudly claims her innocence. There is some circumstantial evidence against her, though, and Haller will need to deploy all of his legal wiles to keep his client from being sentenced as a murderer.

Michael Connelly is my go-to author when I look for a book I’m certain will not disappoint (even more so these days, as I find myself in something of a reading & blogging slump), and he’s also a very skilled writer who knows how to create narrative tension and keep it up all throughout the novel: The Fifth Witness is indeed that kind of book, dealing as it does with the cat-and-mouse play between prosecution and defense as Haller and his counterpart Andrea Freeman, a very determined, very competitive assistant district attorney, spare no tricks to win the battle. And indeed this story shows how a trial is less the search for the truth and more a clash of wills, a chess match where a stalemate is not contemplated, or desired. Haller himself does not care about the guilt or innocence of his clients - although in this case Lisa Trammel does look innocent - but rather cares about a courtroom victory, and the courtroom becomes the battleground where he and his adversary spare no punches to reach their goal.

There is an interesting comparison Haller makes, when speaking about his work, that aptly describes the story told in The Fifth Witness: he likens it to Ravel’s Bolero, which starts quietly with only one or two instruments playing, and slowly but surely gains intensity and moment as more instruments add their voice to the music, until the final crescendo is reached. That’s what happens with the trial - and the parallel investigation conducted by the defense - where the “instruments” Haller brings into play add to the “music” he performs for the jury, to win their hearts and minds in favor of his client.

A client who, despite her protestations of innocence, is as unpredictable and unsympathetic as they come, and in a couple of instances throws an unexpected curveball into the mix and seems to deliberately want to sabotage her own defense, particularly when she gives in to the seduction of notoriety and opens up to the ever-hungry media against her lawyer’s warnings. Haller’s clients, so far, have not been very likable characters but I have to admit that my antipathy for Trammel was immediate and unshakable, so that the story’s final twist, as surprising as it was, did not come as a complete shock.

When the novel does not deal with courtroom debate it focuses on the search for clues about an alternate perpetrator, and here Haller’s staff is portrayed with brief but enlightening touches that add to the story’s depth: from Cisco, the former biker turned skilled investigator, to Lorna, Haller’s second wife for a brief time who now works as his secretary, to Maggie, the lawyer’s first wife and dedicated prosecutor who still harbors some feelings for her ex-husband but cannot abide his methods. They are joined here by Mickey’s young associate, a recent graduate from law school still fueled by ideas of justice and rights: there are many moments in which we see her struggle with the demands of Haller’s practice and with the progressive loss of innocence caused by contact with the harsh reality of courtroom skirmishes.

And of course Mickey Haller’s personality gains a few more facets as the demands of the current trial see him divided between the duty of obtaining a victory for his client and the pull of his conscience: at some point he admits to not being very familiar with integrity, and he knows that’s what his clients need to win, but at the same time he wants the approval of Maggie and of their teenage daughter, he wants to feel worthy of them - and that might be the reason which pushes him, after the conclusion of the trial, to change sides and work as a prosecutor. It was a surprising choice, and it will prove to be both a career change and a change in outlook, and I wonder what this will mean for the next novel - or novels - in line.

What I am certain about is that no matter which field Haller decides to play in, the stories Michael Connelly will tell about him will continue to be as entertaining and compelling as the ones I read so far. ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Mar 28, 2024 |
I've read all of Michael Connelly's 22 published novels. The Fifth Witness is a fairly good murder/legal drama whose primary failings are that it suffers from the pedantic slow pace that afflict all legal proceedings, particularly in the opening arguments, closing arguments, and the use of the expositional witnesses.

The ending is satisfactory, provided you can plow through the speed bumps to get there. One of the key problems for Connelly is that even after four novels his protagonist Mickey Haller is just not as compelling as Detective Harry Bosch.

( )
  waconner | Jun 29, 2023 |
Courtroom drama with repeated last minute breaking evidence & redirection drags on. While keeping the tension, it did tend to make the story tedious. ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
Courtroom drama with repeated last minute breaking evidence & redirection drags on. While keeping the tension, it did tend to make the story tedious. ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
With The Fifth Witness it’s beginning to seem that Connelly can do no wrong. This latest novel is as shamelessly entertaining as its predecessors, with the customary skilful plotting even more burnished.

As well as making some telling points about the world we live in this is a reminder that in the crime fiction stakes Connelly is comfortably in the upper bracket.
“With me, it’s don’t ask, don’t tell,” Mickey tells the starry-eyed Bullock, who wonders why this junkyard dog never asks his client if she’s innocent. Though the answer isn’t as mysterious as you might like, the courtroom scenes—thrust, parry, struggle for every possible advantage—are grueling enough for the most exacting connoisseur of legal intrigue.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Feb 1, 2011)

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This is for Dennis Wojciechowski,
with many thanks.
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Mrs. Pena looked across the seat at me and held her hands up in a beseeching manner.
"One more thing," the producer said. "I was thinking of going to Matthew McConaughey with this. He'd be excellent. But who do you think could play you?" [p. 115]
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Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home. Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too, and he's certain he's on the right trail.

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