“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: THE GODS OF GUILT by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly began writing the Mickey Haller novels in a bid to recharge his batteries for his long-running series hero, the LAPD detective Harry Bosch, who has featured in 16 novels since he first appeared in The Black Echo (1992). The Gods of Guilt is only the fifth story to feature defence lawyer Mickey Haller, but the success of the movie of The Lincoln Lawyer – released in 2011, starring Matthew McConaughey and based on the novel of the same name from 2005 – means that Mickey Haller is now arguably a more popular character than Bosch.
  That popularity is reflected in an early flash of deadpan humour, as Haller rushes down the courthouse steps and sits into the back seat of the Lincoln town car from which he conducts his business, only to discover that he’s sitting in another lawyer’s Lincoln.
  In the cutthroat world of LA’s legal system, where lawyers compete fiercely for business, the admittedly flattering imitation is costing Mickey dearly. Mickey, however, has more pressing concerns. An old friend, Gloria Dayton, has been found murdered. Complicating matters is the fact that the alleged killer, Gloria’s pimp, has requested that Mickey defend him in court, and has done so on Gloria’s advice.
  Taking the case against his better judgement, Mickey has good reason to rue his decision when it gradually becomes apparent that the murder is rooted in a previous case. Soon Mickey is battling on a number of fronts, and finds himself and his associates targeted by a Mexican drugs cartel.
  The title of The Gods of Guilt refers to the jurors who deliver their verdict on the men and women Mickey Haller defends in court, but there’s a personal dimension to it too. “The gods of guilt are many,” says Legal Siegel, Mickey’s aging mentor. “You don’t need to add to them.” Mickey Haller is a slick, fast-talking defence lawyer who isn’t above bending the rules to ensure clients walk away from court with a not-guilty verdict, regardless of their innocence, but his professional exterior masks a man haunted by demons.
  That clash of the professional and the personal manifests itself in the fraught relationship with his teenage daughter, Hayley, who holds her father responsible for a tragedy in her own life. Her refusal to speak with him and Mickey’s increasingly desperate attempts to open a line of communication offer a poignant counterpoint to Mickey’s hardboiled persona, and effectively humanises the kind of character that is too often characterised as a shallow, sleazy shyster.
  A Pulitzer Prize finalist when he worked as a crime reporter, Connelly tells his story in the taut, driven, journalistic style that has become his trademark as an author over the course of two decades and 26 novels. The result is a propulsive, intricately plotted and emotionally involving tale, but The Gods of Guilt also marks the emergence of Mickey Haller from the long shadow cast by Harry Bosch to become a complex and fascinating character in his own right. ~ Declan Burke

  This review first appeared in the Irish Times.

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