Sunday, May 01, 2011

Connelly on top of his game in The Fifth Witness

To quote Randy Newman, "Baby, I'm guilty." I am six books in arrears on my posts. That's due to the arrival of Portal 2 two weeks ago.  Yep, I chose playing a video game over blogging.

Now that the game has been dispatched (the single player at least), I can turn my attention to the stack of books on my computer table. Here's the first:

Book 46: The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

I do not know how Michael Connelly does it.  For years, the former journalist has written one best seller after another. His novels, which manage to be both popular and critically acclaimed, were largely police procedurals featuring L.A. homicide detective Harry Bosch.  There was also the occasional one-off.

In 2005, with The Lincoln Lawyer, Connelly introduced a new character and a new direction. The character was a clever and charismatic defensive attorney, Mickey Haller. The new direction was the courtroom drama. Somehow, Connelly didn't miss a beat. The Lincoln Lawyer -- now, as they say, a major motion picture -- was one of Connelly's best books.

Last year, in The Reversal, Connelly did his own version of World's Finest or Marvel Team-Up, pairing Bosch and Haller in a riveting story that had Haller working for the prosecution. 

Haller returns for a solo gig in The Fifth Witness, and he's back as a defense attorney. His client, a woman losing her home to due to foreclosure, is accused of killing an employee of the bank that held the mortgage.

Haller doesn't care if his client is innocent or guilty. The reader does and Connelly laces the book with clues as to who killed the banker.  Clues I didn't notice until the end of the book when Haller and I arrived at a similar conclusion.

The courtroom drama isn't my favorite sub-genre of mystery.  I find so much of the inside the court goings-on a tad tedious. Not with Connelly.  He has full command of the material -- never letting things get stale or boring. He has full command of the pace and characterization too.

Connelly reaches the bestseller list book after book because he's a masterly writer. Police procedural or courtroom drama, it doesn't seem to matter.

I don't know how he does it, but I am exceptionally glad he does.

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