The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael ConnellyAuthor: Michael Connelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (2006)
Number of Pages: 528
How long it took me to read: 1 week
Where I got this book: public library
ISBN: 978-0-446-61645-1

Like a Moth to a Flame

I like reading books before I watch the movie versions of them, so when I saw The Lincoln Lawyer novel in the library, I grabbed it eagerly. Once I check it off my reading list, I’ll be free to watch the movie, which I’m looking forward to do.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. ” ‘You know what I used to be afraid of? …That I wouldn’t recognize innocence. That it would be there right in front of me and I wouldn’t see it. I’m not talking about guilty or not guilty. I mean innocence. Just innocence… But you know what I should have been afraid of? …Evil. Pure evil…most of the people I defend aren’t evil, Mags. They’re guilty, yeah, but they aren’t evil. You know what I mean? There’s a difference. You listen to them and you listen to these songs and you know why they make the choices they make. People are just trying to get by, just to live with what they’re given, and some of them aren’t given a damn thing in the first place. But evil is something else. It’s different.’ ” (p.292)

4. “ ‘That must have been hard, getting to know your father through books,’ [Minton said]. I shrugged. I didn’t think that Minton and I needed to know each other that well.” (p.165)

3. “I hate being inside a jail. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because sometimes the line seems so thin. The line between being a criminal attorney and a criminal attorney. Sometimes I’m not sure which side of the bars I am on. To me it’s always a dead-bang miracle that I get to walk out the way I walked in.” (p.18)

2. “We got to the car, one of the cheap Jaguar models. It was the first car she had ever bought without me holding her hand and being involved in running down the choices. She’d gotten the Jag because it made her feel classy, but anybody who knew cars knew it was just a dressed-up Ford. I didn’t spoil it for her. Whatever made her happy made me happy—except the time she thought divorcing me would make her life happier. That didn’t do much for me.” (p.287)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “ ‘I don’t know how you do it, Haller… You’re a sleazy defense lawyer with two ex-wives and an eight-year-old daughter. And we all still love you.’ ” (p.366)

New Words

Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

New Word: discovery (noun)

Definition (Source: The Free Dictionary): the compulsory disclosure of pertinent facts or documents to the opposing party in a civil action, usually before a trial begins
Origins (Source: Online Etymology Dictionary): 1550s; fact of discovering; see discover + -y; earlier in this sense was discovering (mid-14c.); meaning that which is discovered is from 1630s.
As in: “ ‘I want to play fair. That’s the up-to-the-minute discovery for you. I know I don’t have to give it to you until after the arraignment but, hell, let’s be cordial.’ ” (p.165)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“Though I haven’t watched the movie version yet, I know that Matthew McConaughey plays the main character, Michael Haller. He’s so perfect for it; even if I hadn’t known he was the actor involved, I think I would have imagined him in the part anyway. Like McConaughey, Haller seems to be the kind of bad-boy who’s really not bad at all. He comes off as rakish and confident—characteristics I attribute to McConaughey. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that I vividly recall McConaughey’s role as a lawyer in the 1996 movie A Time to Kill (which was excellent, by the way). I like McConaughey and now I get to visualize the character through this book. Normally, I don’t envision characters; they’re kind of hazy in my mind’s eye, so this is a nice change.”

“Why doesn’t Connelly use more contractions? It drives me crazy when authors write out words like, ‘do not’ instead of ‘don’t,’ or ‘I am’ instead of ‘I’m.’ I trip over the writing because it doesn’t feel natural. Especially when the expanded forms of the words crop up in dialogue; people just don’t speak like that.”

“I’m starting to think that the defendant might be a psychopath. Psychopaths fascinate me. I’m interested in psychology in general, and psychopathy (or sociopathy, I’m not sure if there’s a difference between the two) seems to me the holy grail of craziness. I recently read two books on psychopaths and the more I read about them, the more incomprehensible they seem. Here you have an individual who, by all appearances, is the same as you and me. But there is something fundamentally off about him. He cannot empathize. He doesn’t feel a connection to other people. He doesn’t understand guilt or remorse. It’s not that he feels no emotion; it’s just that what emotion he does have is self-oriented. Yet he studies human behavior and mimics it—sometimes with astonishing accuracy—in order to get what he wants.

“Speaking of the cream of the crop of crazy, the other day I watched an interview that Ted Bundy gave hours before he was put to death. Even to the last moment, he was bent on manipulating the interviewer. He claimed that porn was the cause of his actions, knowing that the interviewer was an ‘anti-porn crusader.’ Never before, in countless interviews, had he ever hinted at the possible influence porn could have had on him. He was a calculating, compulsive liar. And yet, he looked so normal: earnest, self-deprecating, even charming. Hard to believe a guy like him could have committed such atrocious acts. And it’s even harder to believe that had I seen him out of context, without knowing what he was, I’d never have guessed. That’s the scariest part: they walk among us.”

“I’m all for the United States’ justice system—the ideas that people are innocent until proven guilty and that every person deserves to be defended. So I understand that there’s a need for criminal attorneys. But does it have to be Haller? The immediacy of the first person narrative brings me close to him, allowing me to feel like I know him personally, just like I would a family member or a close friend—close enough that I feel like asking him why he doesn’t go into a less gray-colored profession. How must it feel to know that the criminals you’re defending will go back on the streets and slip into their old lives, stealing and hurting others?”

“My number one quote sums up Haller’s character and Connelly’s artistry. It’s true: on the surface, Haller seems like he should be a really unlikable guy. But he charms me just as much as he does his ex-wives, sympathetic to his misfortunes, and gleeful at his triumphs. For all his faults, Haller’s still got some morals and he cherishes those friends and family members he holds dear. The inner turmoil he suffers because of a terrible mistake he’s made reflects the goodness that’s at the foundation of who he is. I suppose I’m initially attracted to the confidence that Haller exudes and allow myself to like him because he’s a decent human being after all.”

“There’s a running theme throughout The Lincoln Lawyer about the American justice system, so let me go back to that since it seems to have reeled me in. Pretty much every character Haller comes into contact with gives him flack about protecting criminals. They ask him essentially the same question I asked earlier: How can he sleep at night? The thing is, there’s a system and the system has rules. America’s forefathers fought hard to ensure that Americans could rely on fair and just procedures to prevent the conviction of innocents. The system might not always work, but I’m glad we have it. We might be frustrated when those who we’re certain are guilty are let off on a technicality, but it’s still safer than allowing the state or the public or some judge to waive the right to an attorney or admit tainted evidence. So, really, we should be grateful to the Hallers out there. Or at least not harass them. As much.”

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  1. […] psychopaths! As I mentioned in my review of The Lincoln Lawyer, I’m fascinated by psychopaths. Cream, who apparently murdered Doyle’s love years ago, has come […]

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  3. esrealty says:

    Love how you express yourself & “put” thing together. You make all the books you read a must read! i’d trust your judgememeny anytime.

    Your secret fan.

  4. mimi says:

    love the end of your “talk” – when are you writing?

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