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the lincoln lawyer

8 september 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer was filmed earlier this year with Matthew McConaughey in the title role, and it seems creditably: 83% on the Tomato Meter. But of course I didn't go to see it in the theater, and it's currently languishing at #46 in my Netflix queue.

What I did do was buy a paperback copy of The Lincoln Lawyer, with McConaughey on the cover, for 44 cents at the local thrift store. If I hadn't known the novel had been filmed, I'd have suggested filming it. Mickey Haller is a type of postmodern Perry Mason: a lawyer of aggressive instincts and few self-doubts, who finds himself sucked into a morass of murder every time his phone rings. His clients are the unspeakable rich; the cops, judges, and other lawyers in his world are fools or frauds; and the only people he can count on are his investigator and his secretary. Oh, and his ex-wife. And his secretary is his other ex-wife. And his investigator is gay. Aside from that, he's perfectly Perry Mason. (Though I do now wonder about Paul Drake.)

Like Mason, Haller works in Southern California, where the streets are paved with broken dreams, or at least potholed asphalt over the top of broken dreams. The only straight shooters on those streets are drug-dealing motorcycle gangsters. Everyone else is looking for an edge, and using attorneys like Haller to get it for them.

And the dialogue is liberally salted and heavily-boiled. Here's Mickey Haller deciding he's had enough to drink:

The waitress brought my third martini. I waved it away.

"I don't want it. Just the check."

"Well, I can't pour it back in the bottle," she said.

"Don't worry. I'll pay for it. I just don't want to drink it. Give it to the guy who makes the cheese bread and just bring me the check." (235)
The main plot of The Lincoln Lawyer revolves around a high-rolling "franchise client," who can provide the means for Mickey to buy several more Lincolns to join the four he bought to get the fleet discount. Mickey needs to crush the weak attempted-rape charges against his client, but not crush them before he bills a considerable number of hours. A nice balancing act, and easy enough for our narrator/protagonist – until he learns that his client, in addition to being a liar and a would-be rapist, may also be a rapist in fact and a serial killer.

Things take several twists after that, and then begin to get really dangerous. The Lincoln Lawyer is finely-milled, contemporary pulp: a name-brand entertainment.

Connelly, Michael. The Lincoln Lawyer. 2005. New York: Hachette, 2011.