About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

33. - 592.) The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly – The recession has driven Mickey Haller into foreclosure defence. A foreseeable consequence of the faltering California economy is the dearth of criminal defendants able to pay for their defence.

            Haller returns to criminal defence when one of his foreclosure clients, Lisa Tramell, is accused of murdering the bank official, Mitchell Bondurant, in charge of proceeding with the foreclosure of her home. There is no problem with motive. Her strident protests, as head of FLAG – Foreclosure Litigants Against Greed, had resulted in a restraining order keeping her away from the front entrance of the bank. Bondurant is hammered to death in the garage where he parks each morning.

            Unlike most fictional lawyers Haller immediately addresses how he is to be paid. Unlike non-Los Angeles fictional lawyers he has the entertainment option. He can pursue a deal in the film industry for the story of defending Lisa.

            Complicating the arrangements is low level Hollywood producer, Herb Dahl, who has paid the $200,000 bond to get Lisa released from custody and wants the rights to the story. Haller is forced into an uneasy relationship with Dahl.

            With both the prosecution and the defence interested in an early trial the pace of the proceedings are swift.

            Andrea Freeman is chosen to prosecute the case. A very determined prosecutor she grudgingly provides the minimum in disclosure of the evidence.

            Haller is filled with energy being back in action with a prominent newsworthy case. Aiding him are a new associate, Jennifer “Bullocks” Aronson, his faithful secretary, Lorna Taylor, his skilled investigator, Dennis “Cisco” Wojciechowski, and his steady driver, Rojas.

            Connelly is the best non-lawyer writer at describing trial action. He knows the nuances of courtroom behaviour and the law. Whether from his own research or expert assistance his lawyers rarely misstep from real life.

            The State has a good but not perfect case. There is strong circumstantial evidence against Lisa. As with every trial lawyer, Haller sets out to find the weaknesses and inconsistencies in the State’s case. Between Haller’s courtroom skills and Cisco’s effective investigations they find and execute a reasonably logical defence. It involves the risky plan of providing an actual, rather than rhetorical, alternative killer.

            Within the trial Haller makes effective use of a mannequin. Demonstrative evidence is far more powerful than the words of the average witness. It must been over 30 years ago when I read of Melvin Belli first using the term demonstrative evidence. Such evidence livens a trial. I had a trial in which my older son was called to be one of the participants in a demonstration to establish a jacket could not be pulled over my client’s head. It was crucial to the defence.

            Connelly creates an excellent trial with an effective combination of planned and reactive strategies. Each lawyer prepares well but each is forced into quick decisions during the trial.

            In his personal life Haller loves his daughter, Hayley, and willingly makes the time needed to see her each week. Their weekly pancake supper date where each works was touching. As always with adults his relationship with his ex-wife, Maggie “McFierce”, is more complex and gets progressively more complicated.

            The Lincoln lawyer is changing. An office is rented for the trial and Haller finds himself comfortable in a regular office. Will he maintain his primary office in the back seat of his Lincolns or be tempted to return to a regular physical office?

                        Harry Bosch is not a character in the book. I think it was a better book without him. I did not think it went well when Bosch and Haller shared the spotlight in The Reversal.

            Connelly is such a smooth and polished writer. The story just flows irresistibly to the end. I enjoyed everything about the book but the ending. As I cannot explain my reasoning without spoiling I will refrain from an explanation. It reflected an undercurrent that had been present throughout the book. Excellent.

            I did not understand the perfection of the title until near the end of the trial. (June 25/11).


  1. Bill - Such a nice thoughtful and detailed review! I'm glad you enjoyed The Fifth Witness, and it's very good to hear that the courtroom scenes are genuine. Not being in the legal profession myself, it's not always easy for me to tell.

  2. Margot: Thank you for the comment. I think Michael Connelly is the best crime author of this generation.

  3. Michael Connelly is good. That is true.

    I agree on liking The Fifth Witness, but not liking the ending, and not wanting to give spoilers, I won't divulge what happened.

    Connelly has said in interviews that he's swinging over to want to put away sleazy criminals. So this ending reflects that.

    The Lincoln Lawyer was so superbly written though, with Haller getting the guilty guy and exonerating the innocent guy. And Haller found out the truth in both cases, and used his skills to right the wrongs. Superbly done!

  4. kathy d: Thanks for the comment. I hope Connelly does not turn his books "sleazy criminals". Surely he is too clever to be satisfied with such characters.

  5. I just finished the book but, I'm confused now. Who really sent Dahl then?