Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly: Bosch and Ballard Team Up in one of Connelly’s best

Dark Sacred NightDark Sacred Night

by Michael Connelly
Harry Bosch, #20/Renée Ballard, #2

Hardcover, 433 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Read: October 31 – November 1, 2018

In a series that’s over twenty books long, there’s a lot of character development, recurring faces and names, and the like — there just has to be. But on the whole, there’s not a lot of connective tissue between the books, most of what happens in one book stays in that novel, and the next very likely won’t even mention those events. Which is really kind of odd, when you think of it. But that’s not the case here — this picks up the action from Two Kinds of Truth a few months later and the central case of this novel is one that Harry had reopened in it. This really is a sequel to Two Kinds of Truth in a way that Connelly really hasn’t given us since The Poet/The Narrows.

LAPD politics has moved Lucia Soto off from the case that Harry asked her to pick up — a murder of a fifteen year-old prostitute, Daisy Clayton — so she can devote time to something more pressing, but Harry doesn’t have to play that game. His own work on that cold case brings him back to the Hollywood Station, where he tries to look at some old files (without anyone knowing what he was up to). He’s caught by our new friend, Renée Ballard. Renée being the curious type quickly figures out what he’s looking into and pushes her way into the investigation — unlike Soto, she has time; unlike Harry, she has standing; it’s really the best thing that could happen for the case.

While she’s poking into this cold case and developing some sort of relationship with Harry Bosch — Renée has her own active cases, and regular Late Show duties to perform. I really like the way we get several little cases along the way with her in these two books — sure, there’s the big murder mysteries, but there’s also a robbery, a rape allegation, and other crimes that she has to deal with. This adds variety to the book (as it did in The Late Show), a touch of realism, and gives the readers multiple ways to see her in action.

Harry also has an official investigation to pursue — a cold case in San Fernando is heating up thanks to Harry’s work uncovering a witness. His prime suspect is now a high-ranking member of a pretty serious gang and the consequences for this witness are potentially huge — and things go quickly wrong with this case. So wrong that Harry’s future with SFPD — and his own safety — are in jeopardy.

There are so many balls in the air in this novel that it’s a testament to Connelly’s skill that they never get confused, he devotes time to each as he should, in a way that does justice to each storyline and the book never feels over-populated. If Dark Sacred Night had nothing else going for it, just the construction would be enough to commend it. But there’s so much more to commend the novel, too. There’s a little levity, a lot of darkness, a lot of solid procedural material, a couple of bent rules, and some satisfying story telling — just to name a few of the commendable things. I’m leaving a lot off that list, if only for reasons of space and time.

There’s one criminal here — I’m trying not to spoil anything — who spouts off about his victims not being anyone, of not counting. He’s the philosophical opposite of Harry’s “Everyone counts” mission. It’s an excellent way to highlight just what makes Harry — and maybe Renée — tick and what separates them and some of the gray areas they walk in from those on the other side of the law. We have multiple murderers in this book for whom their victims are just tools, just objects, things go be used. While for Harry, Renée, and those like them — these are people with hopes, dreams, pain and suffering that need to be protected, defended and avenged.

A downside for me was how little non-case work time we got with Renée. Harry had time with Maddie, Cisco and Elizabeth in addition to all the police. Renée got almost no time with Lola, nothing with her grandmother, and only a little time with anyone outside of the Hollywood Station that wasn’t involved in a crime she was investigating. I liked her non-police world just as much as I like Harry’s and wish we’d have gotten time in it.

Like many, I knew that Bosch and Ballard would team-up eventually. But no one expected it so soon. Before reading this, I’d said that I would’ve liked another book or two just to get to know Renée a bit more before bringing Harry in. However, having read this — I’m glad it happened now (still, wouldn’t have minded the other). Having the two of them together emphasizes the non-Bosch-ness of Renée, which is good. Also, it gives her someone she can count on, not overly-influenced by her history, department politics, or any of the nonsense that will follow her for the rest of her career. This also gives Harry a way away from cold cases and San Fernando. Altogether, it’s a smart move on Connelly’s part. Now I guess we just wait on the inevitable involvement of Mickey.

Between the merging of the two worlds, the strong emotional tie Harry has to Daisy and her mother, the upheaval the other case brings to his life, and the continued development of Renée Ballard as a character — there’s just so many positives to this book that it’s hard to enumerate them all. I think this is the best book that Connelly has done — in any of his series — in years. It’s been ages (if ever) that he’s had a clunker of a novel, but this one seems more effective, more entertaining than most. It’s just so well done. This is a must-read for Bosch fans, Renée Ballard fans, Connelly fans or anyone who likes seeing one of the masters of the genre at the top of his game.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

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Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly: Bosch Enters New Territory and Revisits some Old in Two Very Different cases

Two Kinds of TruthTwo Kinds of Truth

by Michael Connelly
Harry Bosch, #20

Paperback, 402 pg.
Grand Central Publishing, 2018
Read: October 12 – 13, 2018

…he had never planted evidence against any suspect or adversary in his life. And this knowledge gave Bosch an affirming jolt of adrenaline and purpose. He knew there were two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and molded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.

Harry Bosch continues to work as a volunteer San Fernando cold case detective until a very hot case comes in — a murder. Harry steps in to guide the full-time detectives through this investigation at a family-owned pharmacy. Quickly, they determine that there’s a tie between this killing and a criminal enterprise involving prescription drugs (opioids, to be specific). Soon, Harry’s doing something he’s never really done before to find some answers and hopefully bring the killers to justice. It’s a great setup to a story. There’s a blast from Harry’s past involved in the prescription drug side of the investigation, and I never thought I’d see this character again. It was a nice surprise.

That’s not only blast from the past in this novel. An old case of Harry’s is being re-opened (by “old” I mean pre-Black Echo, I think) — supposedly some new evidence has come to light exonerating the man Harry and his old partner arrested. Harry’s last LAPD partner, Lucia Soto, is one of the detectives being used by the DA in the re-opening of the case — but that doesn’t mean Harry’s getting much of a break. The position of the LAPD and the DA’s office is that Harry and his partner put away the wrong man — framed an innocent man — and it’s just a matter of time until he’s released and Harry will be sued for his role. Harry does the smart thing right away and gets Mickey Haller involved, he’s going to need legal help — and emotional support — to get through this.

The resolution to the Drugs/Murder story was a bit too easy, a bit too rushed for my taste — which is a shame, because I thought there was a lot more that Connelly could’ve done with it, and I was really enjoying it. That said, other than the resolution to it — I thought it was a great story, and if it even skews toward the truth when it comes to how these pills are procured/distributed, it’s one of the more disturbing stories that Connelly has ever told.

On the other hand, the resolution of the False Conviction story was never in doubt — Connelly’s not going to do that to Harry. The only question was how he was going to be cleared/how the murderer was going to be proven guilty again. The way it involved the work of Harry, Cisco, and Mickey together — especially with some wily moves on Mickey’s part was a whole lot of fun. I do think Harry’s reaction to his half-brother’s craftiness reeked of hypocrisy — he’s not above some of the same kind of moves (just not in a courtroom). The difference laying (in Harry’s eyes) in that he’s a cop, seeking justice and that Mickey’s a lawyer, seeking a win. Honestly, that reaction annoyed me a lot — which is one of the best parts of this series, I frequently am annoyed by Harry Bosch — he’s arrogant, hypocritical, and blind to his own faults. In other words, he’s human. He’s also dedicated, determined and generally honorable — qualities you can’t help but admire.

I know that this novel is one of the books that’s going to be the basis of the next season of Amazon’s Bosch, and I couldn’t help wondering throughout — how? Both storylines depend on an older Bosch than Welliver (the wrongful conviction story less-so), and one of them involves Mickey Haller, and I don’t see how they could use that character (but it could be done without him, if necessary). There are probably umpteen articles easily found online about how they’ll do it, but I’ll just wait to watch it. Still, the thought nagged at me throughout reading.

This is typical Connelly/Bosch — a strong, well=constructed story with compelling characters, a good pace and some twists that you won’t see coming. If this was written by anyone else, I’d have likely given it more stars. Maybe that’s wrong of me, but . . . something tells me Connelly will be fine no matter what I say. It’s a strong book, it’s an entertaining book — there’s a lot of good moments, but it could’ve been better.

—–

3.5 Stars

The Wrong Side Of Goodbye by Michael Connelly: Bosch takes on a new role, and gives the same solidly entertaining result.

The Wrong Side Of GoodbyeThe Wrong Side Of Goodbye

by Michael Connelly
Series: Harry Bosch, #19

Paperback, 386 pg.
Grand Central Publishing, 2017
Read: June 20, 2018
Not shockingly at all, retirement doesn’t sit well for Harry Bosch. As we saw in The Crossing, neither does working for defense attorneys. So what’s a guy like Harry Bosch — with that strong sense of mission driving him for decades — to do with himself when the LAPD forces him to retire?

Naturally, he’s going to get a PI license and do what he can with. But there’s going to be a dearth of clients that want him to investigate the kind of crimes he’s driven to investigate. Thankfully, the San Fernando Police Department is suffering a horrible budget crises and can utilize him as a reserve police officer looking at cold cases (this is an actual thing that happens, and was suggested by a member of the SFPD to Connelly as something for Bosch). This is work for free, true, but anyone who thinks that Bosch is driven by money in any real sense hasn’t talked to him for five minutes.

Bosch is hired by an elderly billionaire (at least), to hunt down a potential heir to his empire — his family “forced” him to abandon a lower-class woman after he impregnated her in the 50’s, and now looking at his mortality rushing to meet him, he wants to pass things on to his heir. He doesn’t have much to give Harry to start from — a name, an employer, and a time frame. That’s it. He needs Harry to keep this to himself — and has him sign a very tight non-disclosure agreement — because he doesn’t trust anyone in the company he’s the head of. He’s right not to trust anyone, as Harry quickly learns, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

This case grabs Harry’s attention, particularly when he becomes convinced that he’s tracked down the heir — who served in Vietnam at the same time Harry did. In fact, Harry’s reasonably sure that they were briefly on the same ship at the same time. In addition to this being very interesting, watching Harry backtrack this man’s family — this focus on Vietnam gets Harry to reflect some on his time there, and even discuss a bit with Maddie. I think this is the most that Harry has talked about Vietnam since The Black Echo (feel free to correct me in the comments), and I appreciate reminding us where the character comes from.

As interesting as that is — both through the procedure Harry enacts, what’s revealed about the case and himself, plus the surprising amount of peril that beings to follow him — the other case that Harry’s looking into is more up his alley.

In the course of his duties as a reserve officer, he’s been looking through cases that haven’t been closed — the one he’s focused on now isn’t a murder (as you’d expect), but is a serial rapist. Between the way the cases were reported, the staffing problems SFPD has, some jurisdictional issues, and (most importantly) language barriers, it wasn’t until Harry started reading all the case files he could get his hands on that patterns started to emerge and a coherent picture of one criminal’s work became clear. The SFPD detective that Harry’s working with, Bella Lourdes, seems like a solid detective — probably not as obsessive as Harry, but a dedicated detective. She’s able to handle the interview side of things better than Harry, actually (see the language barrier, among other things). As things heat up with the other case, Harry can’t get away and Lourdes ends up carrying the water on vital aspects of this by herself. It’s one of the healthier partnerships Harry’s had, really. But don’t worry — at the end of the day, this is a Harry Bosch novel. Not a Harry and Bella. Harry’ll put all the pieces together — but not early enough to keep things from getting pretty harrowing for all involved.

MIckey Haller shows up briefly early on, and I thought “oh, that was a nice cameo.” But at some point, he becomes a strong supporting character — as important to the private client storyline as Lourdes was to the serial rapist. I appreciated the smooth way that Connelly merged Haller into this novel. But that’s not all — Harry spent a moment thinking about Jerry Edgar (is that the influence of the Amazon series, or just Harry getting retrospective?) and there was a completely unnecessary — but nice — little appearance by Det. Lucia Soto. Unnecessary to the plot, but it shows something about Harry, I think, that wouldn’t have described him a few books ago.

The mysteries themselves are a shade on the easy side for this series — but the fun in this comes from watching Bosch chip away, step by step, through the process. Sure, he cuts a corner or five, makes several lucky guesses — but we’re not looking for verisimilitude here, right?

That said, there were several moments in the latter third or so that I assumed I had everything worked out — and I was right as much as I was wrong. Connelly didn’t cheat, but he zagged a lot when I was sure he was going to zig. At this stage of the game, for Connelly to be able to fool me that often, that says plenty about his skill.*

A good ride for old fans — a decent (not excellent, but acceptable) place for a new reader to jump on — The Wrong Side of Goodbye capably demonstrates why Michael Connelly in general, and Harry Bosch in particular, has been at the top of the American Crime Fiction scene — and likely will stay there for quite some time.

*Sure, it could say something about me, and what kind of reader I am, but let’s give credit ot Connelly’s craft and not my gullibility, shall we?

—–

4 Stars

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

The CrossingThe Crossing

by Michael Connelly
Series: Harry Bosch, #18

Mass Market Paperback, 384 pg.
Vision, 2016

Read: December 23 – 25, 2017


Harry Bosch has been forced into retirement, but he hasn’t lost sense of his mission — to find killers and make sure they are brought to justice. But he’s trying to fill his day with rebuilding and restoring an old Harley-Davidson. Which basically means that his half-brother, Mickey Haller, doesn’t have much work to do when he tries to convince Bosch to do some investigative work for his defense of an innocent man.

There is one huge hurdle — Bosch feels it’s a betrayal of everything he spent his career doing. Haller assures him that anything that hurts his case that they find they’ll turn over to the prosecution, which helps. But what really gets Bosch on board is his mission — if Haller is correct and his client is innocent, that means the guilty are going free and that just doesn’t sit well with him. So after meeting with client and reading through the file, Bosch jumps to the other side, something he knows he’ll never be able to live down, and that will burn some bridges with his former colleagues.

Bosch has to learn to work without the badge — how to access people, places and information (and parking!) without the LAPD standing behind him. But the essence is still the same, follow the evidence, make sure there are no loose ends, and adapt quickly — but now there’s less bureaucracy, and less of a need to justify following a hunch.

I loved seeing Bosch fighting his instincts to open up to the police, to want to hand things over to them whenever he can, rather than to keep information for Haller to use at trial. Bosch just can’t think of defending someone, his focus is all offense. I had a little trouble believing how little communication there was between the two during Bosch’s work — and, really, I wanted to see more of Haller — but I think a lot of that had to do with Bosch’s guilt over working for the accused and his different perspective about what to do with his suspicions about someone else.

There’s some great stuff with Maddie — Bosch is trying so hard to be a good father, but just doesn’t understand everything his daughter’s going through on the verge of high school graduation. He knows exactly how to get a witness (however reluctant) or a suspect to talk, he understands just what makes them tick, but his daughter is so frequently a mystery to him. I know some didn’t like Maddie’s addition to the series, but I love the interaction between the two.

At this point, I don’t need to talk about Connelly’s skill — that’s more than evident to anyone who’s read more than 20 pages of one of his 30-ish books. What we have here is the latest way he’s found to keep Bosch fresh, to keep the series from repeating itself. And it works so well — crisp writing, perfectly paced, not a word wasted, and a resolution that’ll satisfy fans of Bosch and Haller. I’ve been kicking myself for not getting to The Crossing when it was first released, and I’m more than happy I’ve found the time to read it — it’s so good to spend time with Bosch again. This will work for readers new or old — as long as they’re looking for a strong detective story.

—–

4 Stars

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

The Late ShowThe Late Show

by Michael Connelly
Series: Renée Ballard, #1

Hardcover, 405 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2017

Read: July 17 – 22, 2017


Det. Renée Ballard works the graveyard shift out of the Hollywood Station, nicknamed the Late Show. She and her partner, the veteran detective John Jenkins, are basically place-holders — they handle the initial investigation of a crime (or sign off on a suicide) and then hand off their notes to one of the other detective squads that work days. It’s not demanding work — Jenkins likes it because there’s almost no overtime, and he can go home and be with his sick wife during the day. Ballard is stuck on the Late Show because she made some political waves a couple of years back, she couldn’t be fired over it, they could just make sure she found the prospect of another line of work appealing.

We meet Ballard on a pretty eventful night, she and Jenkins look into an elderly woman’s report of her purse being stolen and people using her credit cards; the vicious assault of a transvestite prostitute; and are involved in a minor role following a night club shooting. She and her partner are supposed to be turning over their involvement in these cases to someone else, but Ballard just can’t let go. She works the murder under the radar (as much as she can), gets permission to keep at the assault (which should not be construed as her investigating it according to Hoyle), and is brought back into the robbery organically — I stress this because it’s not all about Ballard skirting regulations, she works within (or near) the system.

Connelly constructs this like a pro — weaving the storylines into a good, cohesive whole. Each story feels like it gets enough time to be adequately told (without the same amount of space being devoted to each), there’s no grand way to connect them all into one, larger crime (which I almost always enjoy, but this is a bit more realistic), while something she learns on one case can be applied to another.

There’s one point where I thought that a plot development meant “oh, now we’re going to wrap things up now — cool.” Which I never would have thought if I bothered to pay attention to which page I was on, but it still seemed like the point that most writers would wrap it up. Instead, Connelly plays things out the way you expect, and then uses that to turn the novel in a different direction.

The book is full of nice little touches like that — Connelly’s been around enough that he knows all the tricks, knows all the plays — he can give you exactly what you think he will and then have the result come up and Connelly’s you.

In the future, I’d like to see a little more about Jenkins — but then again, how much did Connelly really develop Jerry Edgar or Kiz? Still, this is a new series, so he can develop things a bit more — I don’t think there’s a lot that can be done with Jenkins, but he can be more than just the guy who splits paper work with her. I hope that [name withheld] doesn’t become Ballard’s Irving, but I can think of worse things that might happen, so I won’t complain. I also hoped I’d get out of this with only 1 bit of comparison to the Bosch books. Oops.

The best thing — the most important thing — to say here is that Renée Ballard is not a female Harry Bosch; all too often, an established crime writer will end up creating a gender-flipped version of their primary character — basically giving us “X in a skirt” (yeah, I’m looking at you, Sunny Randall). This isn’t the case here. There’s a different emotional depth to Ballard, different lifestyles, different aspirations. Sure, she’s driven, stubborn, and obstinate, just like Harry — but name one fictional detective that isn’t driven, stubborn and obstinate. Readers don't show up in droves for slackers. Is there plenty of room for development and growth for Ballard in the future? Oh yeah. She's not perfect by any means (as a fictional character or as a person). But what a great start.

Same can be said for the series, not just the character — this book does a great job of capturing L.A. (an aspect of it at least), has a great plot, with enough turns to keep the reader satisfied, and a final reveal that's truly satisfying. The last thing that Connelly really needed was to start something new — but I'm glad he decided to.

—–

4 Stars

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

The Burning RoomThe Burning Room

by Michael Connelly
Series: Harry Bosch, #17

Mass Market Paperback, 459 pg.
Vision, 2015

Read: November 16 – 18, 2015

Harry Bosch is in the last few months of his career with the LAPD — he’s about to be forced to retire again, and there’ll be no coming back from this one. He’s at peace with this — as much as he can be. It helps that he’s training rookie Detective Lucia Soto. Soto wants to learn from him (which distinguishes her from a lot of his former partners) and seems to want to do things the way Bosch does — it’s about results, not politics; shoe leather, not (just) computer work — everyone matters. If Harry can replace himself with someone like her, he’ll go happily.

There are two cases that Bosch is focusing on this time out — one officially so, the other on his own. The official case has a lot of press, a lot of attention from inside and outside the LAPD from the Chief all the way down. It’s an odd cold case, too. The victim just died, from complications of a bullet lodged in his back almost a decade ago. From the initial findings to the end, nothing turns out to be anything like it was assumed in the initial investigation when he was shot. Great, twisty case.

Connelly spends more effort on the other case, which ends up giving the novel its title. It dates back to about the same time, but isn’t actually assigned to Bosch and Soto initially. It’s been a long time Hobby Case of Soto’s, though and she recruits Bosch to help — which he does, to keep her out of trouble and to continue her development. The case is an old arson investigation, the building that was set on fire was an old apartment building that also housed an unlicensed day care. Nine children died in the fire, and it’s haunted the neighborhood since. A much more complicated case — made the moreso by the two working it off-book.

Harry’s not fighting corruption in the ranks or City Hall this time — his targets may be close to power (and some are about as far from it as you can get), but that’s it. As much as I enjoyed the forever long feud with Irving, I’m glad to see some variety. No corruption to fight — just bureaucratic timetables and peevishness. That’s bad enough for anyone.

Whether we’re talking Iggy Ferras, David Chu, Kiz Rider, Jerry Edgar or any of the other partners Harry’s worked with, it’s safe to say, most of them haven’t been great matches. Kiz came close (Edgar did, too, in a way — they knew how to work together, mostly). This is probably the best relationship Harry’s had with a partner — not his equal, but with almost the same drive. And she knows she needs Harry’s lectures (which most of the others didn’t need or want), she wants to hear them — she even asks for his feedback and critique. Even without this, Soto’s got it going on, her strengths supplement and/or complement Harry’s. I wish they had more time together — although Harry’s lessons might start to grate on her if they spent more than several months together, see the above list of ex-partners.

While the partner/partner dynamic hasn’t always been idyllic, you can usually count on a healthy father-daughter interaction — or at least attempts on both of their parts at it. There wasn’t that much Harry and Maddie material in this one — but what was there was . . . okay. I wonder if Connelly is preparing for a spin-off series starring Maddie, or if he’ll hand that off to someone else to do.

I’m not entirely satisfied — nor are we supposed to be — with the way both cases resolved, but they did so in a way that Harry can be proud of. Much more he has a legacy to pass down –both to Maddie and to Det. Soto. You also know that Harry’ll be one of those retired cops who’ll be quick to return a call from someone in the future looking for help on an old case.

A good Bosch, not great, but solid and satisfying. Killer last scene, even if it made me think of Sutton Foster playing Harry in a very special episode of Bosch. Good ’nuff for me.

—–

3.5 Stars

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

The Gods of GuiltThe Gods of Guilt

by Michael Connelly
Series: Mickey Haller, #5

Mass Market Paperback, 464 pg.
Vision, 2014
Read: January 1 – 6, 2015

Getting a not-guilty verdict was a long shot. Even when you knew in your gut that you were sitting next to an innocent man at the defense table, you also knew that the NGs came grudgingly from a system designed only to deal with the guilty.

Which is why most novels about lawyers are about defense lawyers — there’s more drama when they win (Mickey’s cynicism/realism also says something about our judicial system — but that’s a matter for another kind of blog). Note how little time Rachel Knight, the prosecutor, spends in court in her novels.

But from Perry Mason to Ben Matlock to Andy Carpenter to the real life attorneys, we want to read about and watch defense attorneys. We want to see them work within (and outside) the system, up to the point where the jury, the “Gods of Guilt” decide the fate of the defendant. Sometimes these “Gods” choose correctly, sometimes not. We rarely think of the consequences of these verdicts — in fiction, we almost never see them.

This novel is practically all about those consequences — and the events spiraling out of them. Almost a decade ago, Mickey Haller used some information one of his client’s possessed to get her a good deal. Which worked out nicely for all concerned (except the guy she had the information about), until she winds up dead — after telling her accused killer that if he’s in legal trouble, Mickey Haller is the only name to call.

Mickey’s dealing with some more immediate consequences — a man he successfully defended went on to get drunk and run down an innocent mother and child. Mickey’s blamed for this — which derails his D.A. campaign and derails his relationship with his daughter (who knew one of the victims).

So, when Mickey is presented with a prospective client he believes is innocent, he grabs at the chance for a little public and familial redemption. But before these “Gods” can weigh in, there’s a long road to be walked, prices to pay, deals to be made, and secrets to uncover.

I’d forgotten how slow these books start — Connelly’s masterful and putting the pieces together in a way that makes the ending seem inevitable — once you get there. But man, at times the build up can bog you down. Sure, there were other things going on — but it took me 3 days to get through the first 200-250 pages, and then 1 day for the next 150-200, because as slow as things start — when it all starts to come together, it’s a smooth and fast ride.

Aside from the twisty and tricky plot, is, of course, character — which is really what brings readers back to this kind of series. And there’s a lot to think about in this one.

For one, there’s the new character, David “Legal” Siegel, Mickey’s father’s law partner. He’s living in a fairly totalitarian retirement home (probably for good reason, not that Legal or Mickey seem to care), but still has fantastic defense instincts and helps Mickey and his associate, Jennifer Aronson, with some of their more clever strategies. He’s a fun addition to the cast, and I hope to see more of him.

I wasn’t quite as impressed with Jennifer Aronson’s characterization. I don’t care how new she is to the whole criminal defense thing, there’s no way that someone with any kind of experience — or a TV — needs to have the concept of “burner phone” explained. I get that Jennifer Aronson needs to have some things explained to her — and the reader via Aronson — but c’mon, really? Still, it’s good to see Mickey mentoring someone, and having someone else in the firm to do some legwork does open up narrative possibilities for future novels. Although, Mickey keeps talking about Aronson leaving him and being more successful than him — is this Connelly setting up a spin-off series?

Cisco, Earl, Lorna 2 and Maggie were along as well — nothing both notable and not-spoilery to say about them. They played their narrative roles well, and as they should. There’s a notable exception to this, but can’t talk about it now.

Naturally, the focus is on Micky Haller, in the courtroom (and associated areas), he’s a shark. He’s a pro. He’s a wiz. And he knows it — which sometimes makes you groan, other times you relish it. Connelly’s honest enough to make Mickey’s confidence come back to bite him — it happened once during this trial, and even though I pretty much saw it coming, I still gave him a sympathetic wince. There was another point where I was actually talking back to the book, begging Mickey not to be so cocky. Fairly sure that things were going so well for him that he would screw things up with a witness/suspect.

As (almost) always, his personal life is in shambles. Mickey’s relationship with his daughter, Hayley, is always one of the more endearing aspects of this series, and to see the estrangement between them is rough. Connelly isn’t a guy that typically gets emotional reactions (other than suspense, and satisfaction from victory) from a reader — but Mickey having to covertly watch his daughter’s soccer practice through binoculars? No way that doesn’t tug on a heart string (while you hope no one catches him in the act and thinks he’s some sort of predator).

Throughout The Gods of Guilt there’s a Palpable sense of loneliness to Mickey, he’s always looking for people to be watching him in court. Thanks to the election loss, the DUI, etc. people’s perceptions of him are really damaged, really negative. All Mickey wants is someone, anyone really, to see him doing well, to see him doing something good. Sure, it’s better if it’s someone he cares about seeing him do that, however, and he’s always looking for it.

Naturally, things wrap up in a satisfying manner, and then we’re treated to one of the best closing paragraphs that Connelly’s written (if not the best, and he’s written too many of them for this lazy blogger to verify). The last four paragraphs cement in the reader’s mind just what kind of person the Lincoln Lawyer really is beneath the headlines, the courtroom antics, and the car.

A slow-burn of a read, like I said, but once you reach the tipping point, the reader is hanging on every word — just like the jury, Mickey’s Gods of Guilt are to the drama unfolding before them.

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4 1/2 Stars