True confession: I’m a recovering book snob. The situation peaked during undergrad, when half the people in my English classes wore gauzy scarves and prattled insufferably about reading Dante in their leisure time. I played along with Jane Austen movie adaptations, post-modernism, and poetry collections from the basement of Half-Price Books. And, okay, I did look down my nose at my mom’s Dick Francis and John Grisham novels. But by the time I got to grad school, I had embraced my true identity as a literary omnivore. I maintained subscriptions to both The New Yorker and US Weekly and binged on The Biggest Loser, rather than The Sundance Channel.
And, thank goodness I am no longer suffering from Literary Elitism because during my snobby period, I never – NEVER – would have downloaded Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, which I recently found to be both enormously pleasurable and smartly plotted. I devoured this as an audiobook, narrated by Adam Grupper, and it was a perfect companion for chore completion and commuting.
The Story: This is the genesis of Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer series, so named for the protagonist Mickey Haller, a criminal defense attorney who offices in the backseat of a Town Car. Haller is a lovable screw-up – twice divorced and always just on the verge of trouble with the California Bar Association, but with a host of adoring fans, including his two ex-wives, a crack investigator, and a slightly sideways bail bondsman. Haller stumbles into what he’s sure will be a “franchise case” (read: mega moneymaker) in Louis Roulet, a fancy real estate broker who has been charged with attempted murder. Innocence is relative for Haller, but he thinks maybe he’s finally found a guy who actually didn’t do the thing he’s charged with. The plot holds, even through several satisfying twists, and the Roulet case serves to help redefine Haller’s calling, which I assume he refines in subsequent novels.
The Writing: Smooth, convincing and relatable. Connelly knows how to set up a cliffhanger, and each chapter felt cohesive. It’s a legal thriller, and we do encounter some stock characters (the ex-con driver who can procure a gun on short notice; a drugged-up prostitute on her umpteenth bust). I liked them all, though, even in 2D.
The Recording: Adam Grupper provides an engaging narration with variations in voice for each character. These are believable, consistent, and not overwrought. Rather, they helped develop each player, highlighting their emotional responses to the events of the story. Grupper does the frequent dialogue well – attaining a familiar, rapid-fire style between Haller and his associates. The only aspect I didn’t enjoy was the seemingly random use of “suspenseful music” at the end of chapters. It wasn’t necessary, and in fact seemed to undermine the actual suspense that Connelly skillfully builds.
The Bottom Line: I really liked this a lot. I’m not racing out for the next in the Lincoln Lawyer series, but I’m certain I’ll return to it from time to time. I think it’s about 3.5 stars.
And you? Are you a series person? Follow Mickey Haller? If so, which volume should I listen to next?