May 5, 2011

The Fifth Witness ***

*** The Fifth Witness, Michael Connelly, 2011

Just seconds ago I finished reading this one. Once again, a great read by Mr. C. Down to the wire I wasn't sure which way it would go, which is saying something, given I've read 20+ Connelly novels. If you like Connelly's style of stuff, you'll like this one.

However, after having watched McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer, it's hard to avoid seeing him as Haller, even though Connelly wrote a character of a different style. For example, in this novel we learn Haller's mother was Mexican and he looks like he should know Spanish, not something one would normally say of McConaughey.

All that being said, I had two beefs with the novel. Because of my day job, I've spent the last 18 months learning about the foreclosure crisis and the details behind it. In fact, I'm currently working on a couple of guides for investors and Realtors on opportunities in the foreclosure market. Since the premise of The Fifth Witness is based on a woman accused of murdering a banker who was foreclosing on her house, I eagerly awaited the release of this novel.

It turns out that the robo-signing scandal plays a big part in the book at the beginning and the end, with a lot of murder trial and investigation in the middle. That made it more interesting to me, but Connelly made it sound like the defendant had been illegally foreclosed on due to the whole robo-signing thing. True, fraud was perpetrated on conveyances, but that doesn't change the fact that people who quit paying their loans can legally be foreclosed on. It's just a matter of connecting the dots to who really owns the paper.

The novel had a lot of language about the poor, downtrodden masses unjustly being thrown out of their homes by money-grubbing "foreclosure mills." The reality is that the defendant was justly being thrown out of her home, perhaps by the wrong person, but for the right reasons - she hadn't made payments for a year. The soapboxing got a little old after a while.

OK, enough of that issue, which probably won't matter to most readers. The other issue is a spoiler I complained about in my review of The Brass Verdict. I won't repeat it here other than to say, sure enough, it happened again. You can click the link and read the fine print, but be forewarned, it is a spoiler. You might want to wait until you've read it before you do so.

But the ending was very intriguing. It left me wanting to read the next Haller book immediately. Which of course I can't do, since it hasn't been published, yet. Connelly's next novel due out is a Bosch story to be released in November. Dang.

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