ith the downturn in the economy, Mickey Haller was struggling a bit.  It wasn’t that crime in LA had decreased, just that people weren’t able to pay for a defense and were more and more often asking for a court appointed attorney.  Always willing to be flexible to generate income, Mickey decided to start working foreclosure cases.  It is through this part of his practice that he met Lisa Trammel a school teacher, single mom, and a very annoying client with some possible mental issues.  However, when she’s accused of murdering the banker handling her foreclosure, it looks like Mickey has a pretty good chance of proving he has an innocent client that’s been set up by a man with ties to organized crime.  In a nice, tight, legal thriller, The Fifth Witness presents a scary aspect to Mickey Haller’s character—a conscience.

I had the opportunity to read The Lincoln Lawyer, the first book in this series, earlier this year, but that was backtracking since late last year I read The Reversal (released October 2010).  By starting at the end, I didn’t realize how much Mickey had evolved throughout the series.  To have started out as a hustler, he sure has become somewhat respectable.  I’m not sure that’s a completely good thing though.  Sure he’s a more likeable person with better morals, but this is fiction and he made an awesome leading character I wanted to hate, but instead just loved.

Mickey’s pretty good at getting himself into cases that simply don’t go as planned.  From witnesses that explode on the stand, to a nice beating at the hands of a supposed ally, this is a tough case from start to finish.  With lots of twists and little detours, The Fifth Witness has a plot that’s fun to follow and keeps the reader just slightly off balance.

The writing felt just a bit off though.  The dialogue wasn’t as sharp and overall it didn’t capture scenes as well, but that’s probably due to the change in Mickey’s character.  There is a point in this book where he is placed in a situation that causes him to lose his confidence and cockiness, but I’m not sure he hadn’t lost it before the first page.  By the time it ended, I felt as though some of the strengths and qualities of his character that made him jump off the pages were fading.  Perhaps the next book will bring out some new personality traits that will be fantastic and I’ll totally forget why I’m a little sad to see Mickey’s transformation.

The Fifth Witness maintains the on-going tension of defending a client who may or may not be guilty.  With Mickey’s new, naive associate, Connelly weaves in some of the fun, though sometimes, questionable philosophy and strategies of presenting the vigorous defense each client is entitled to.  By adding in the Hollywood aspect and the prospect of movie and book deals, there is still a good amount of expected jockeying and hustling that makes for entertaining reading.

The ending to this book indicates that Mickey might be heading in a surprising new direction.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but given where he started…wow…this is certainly not where I expected him to end up.  Anyway, for those looking for a fun legal thriller, this is a good one to pick up.  It’s a bit different from the other two I’ve read, but I still very much enjoyed it and had a tough time putting it down.  Oh, and I loved how the titled tied back into the story.  Very cool.

Note to sensitive readers:  The Fifth Witness does contain moderate language, sexual content, and violence.  It’s certainly not unreasonable, but more than was in the other two books I’ve read in this series.