Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Fifth Witness - My Review

This is probably the third or fourth novel of Michael Connelly that i'm reading, and this guy is truly a master of the courtroom drama. I actually started reading Connelly because I had run out of Grisham books, and the real master isn't writing that aggressively any longer. If you head over to Michael Connelly's website, you will see that he has been a real disciplined writer - since 1992, the author has churned out 25 books - which is more than a steady book a year - consistently! Not all of his books are legal thrillers, but i've still not gone beyond that genre from Connelly.
The Fifth Witness is a complicated courtroom story which has enough twists and turns to keep the reader riveted. I read this on my iPad, and it came to about 1350 pages in ePub format - so quite a lengthy book; and you'd better not start reading on a weekday evening if you have to go to work fresh the next morning.
Though we call the genre 'fiction', it never entirely is. Every single trend we see in fiction stems from happenings in the real world, and that is true in the case of legal thrillers also. Long gone are the days of Atticus Finch and How to Kill a Mockingbird, where there was a clear delineation of good and bad, and guilt was a prevalent undercurrent throughout the story. The early days of Grisham had that tinge too. However, with the advent of full time investigators, ambulance chasing defence lawyers, and politically motivated prosecutors as a mainstream part, the whole legal world has moved into shades of grey. What we have is light grey and dark grey; no more white and black.
The Fifth Witness, and its protagonist Michael Haller (the same guy from the bestseller The Lincoln Lawyer) operate entirely in that grey area, but with a solid surprise at the end. And when I say 'Solid', it really is! Makes us feel a bit sorry for the lawyer after all he does, and we appreciate his final decision too. Hopefully, Connelly will write a novel or two more with Haller in his new avatar.
Connelly has a tremendous grasp of the situations in real-world America, and weaves them beautifully into the story. Owing to a lack of business stemming from a market that's down, Haller moves onto foreclosure cases, which are a dime a dozen, etching out a decent living. As expected, one such case turns into a murder mystery, and that is what forms the crux of the novel. I'm not giving out more of the story, and I seriously recommend that you don't look up the story from elsewhere. It is worth reading.
Unlike the Lincoln Lawyer, there is no single theme running us through the story. There are a lot of factors at play here - foreclosures, politics, family complications, organized crime, and of course, a cracking time in the courtroom of Judge Perry. In fact, most of the story is set inside the courtroom, and that is great! 
I've become a fan of Connelly, and look forward to lapping up his other 20 novels I haven't read :)

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