'The Gods of Guilt': Another airtight legal thriller from Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller, an L.A. defense attorney who works out of his Lincoln Town car, is back


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The 2011 movie "The Lincoln Lawyer" was based on a novel by Michael Connelly. "The Gods of Guilt" is the latest in this excellent series. Matthew McConaughey starred in the film, but the beauty of a book is that readers can picture the main character any way they want.

That main character is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who doesn't have an office because he works out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town car. Mickey is smart. He parks in front of Starbucks to use its free Wi-Fi and always wears clip-on ties so he doesn't get pulled through the bars when visiting the jail.


"THE GODS OF GUILT"
By Michael Connelly
Little, Brown ($28).

Because his personal life is a disaster, he works all the time -- he has clients leave his business cards fanned out in their holding cells, and he hangs out at arraignment court. "Staying busy is staying sane," Mickey says.

Mickey's staff from previous books is back: Earl Briggs, his driver; Lorne, the ex-wife who also runs his business from her condo; Cisco, a former biker, now his investigator; and law associate Jennifer Aronson, known as Bullocks, who is on the "foreclosure circuit" to bring in cash between criminal cases.

Mickey's latest case concerns Andre LaCosse, who is arrested for a 187 -- the California penal code for murder. After Andre pays $25,000 in gold bars, Mickey's team gets to work. Andre is a "digital pimp," managing a string of "escorts" via social media. The victim, Giselle Dallinger, was one of them. But it turns out that Mickey knew her when she used the names Gloria Dayton, or Glory Days. Mickey had liked her: "She had a damaged smile, sardonic wit and pessimistic self-knowledge. She was someone who shared his view of the world."

But as the investigation proceeds, things about Glory Days are revealed. Before Giselle was killed she had brought her "Pretty Woman" Special to a client at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Mickey finds surveillance video that shows "a man in a hat" may have followed her. Had she been an informant for the DEA? A check of ICE-T, the Interagency Cartel Enforcement Team, might name the agent she worked for.

Mr. Connelly understands the law, and there are plenty of references to habeas corpus petitions, the gun enhancement federal career criminal statute, and PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). He knows that prisoners often use contraband cell phones and that gay inmates are placed in the Pink Module at Men's Central.

Mr. Connelly is also the author of more than a dozen often gruesome novels centered on detective Harry Bosch. With the Lincoln lawyer series, he spends time in the court room rather than following demented serial killers. But this change of focus never slows his pace. A former journalist for the Los Angeles Times, he writes in bright, compact sentences that build his story like bricks in a solid house: "I felt my adrenaline surging with the car's velocity," Mickey says. "New things were happening."

Mr. Connelly has a knack for creating memorable characters with just a few quick strokes and this book is full of them. There's Kendall Roberts, the former prostitute who is now a yoga instructor; Trina Trixxx, whose triple-x name says it all; Hector Arrande Moya, of the Sinaloa drug cartel; lawyers Sylvester Fulgoni Junior and Senior, one of whom is in jail; and Stratton Sterghos, who has no idea what's about to happen in his house.

There's also the great character Legal Siegel, an old lawyer in a nursing home who gives Mickey free advice in exchange for smuggled sandwiches. Food is a theme throughout the story, and the book could serve as a quick guide to Los Angeles eateries. There are references to Papa Jake's, a hole in the wall lunch counter that's the best kept secret in Beverly Hills; the excellent BLT's at Pete's Cafe; and the hamburgers at Traxx in Union Station.

Mickey, or perhaps Mr. Connelly, also frequents old-school L.A. restaurants like The Ivy and Craig's on Melrose Avenue. Between clues and meals, Mickey dwells on the people he has hurt in his life. "Everybody has a jury, the voices they carry inside. My gods of guilt. Every day I step into the well before them and argue my case." With a story this involving, the readers are sure to exonerate him.


Margie Romero is communications manager at Pittsburgh Public Theater.

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