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The Fifth Witness    by Michael Connelly order for
Fifth Witness
by Michael Connelly
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As The Fifth Witness opens, Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller has more foreclosure defense business than he can handle (criminal defense - or those who could pay for it - having dried up in the down economy). But he gets even busier when his most unlikeable client, Lisa Trammel (a married school teacher with a nine-year-old son), is arrested for the murder of mortgage banker Mitchell Bondurant. Lisa had launched an organization, Foreclosure Litigants Against Greed, and marched regularly, resulting in a restraining order to keep her away from the bank and its employees.

As always Mickey works with one of his ex-wives, Lorna Taylor. Lorna is his case manager and is now married to Mickey's investigator, Dennis 'Cisco' Wojciechowski, who used to ride with the Road Saints. His regular driver is Rojas, once a client. Given his high workload, Mickey's taken on a new, idealistic junior associate, Jennifer Aronson, to help with the foreclosure business. And he frequently sees his first wife, Maggie McFierce (McPherson), a prosecutor, mother of his fourteen-year-old daughter Hayley, and the woman he still loves.

The prosecutor for the Lisa Trammel case is Andrea Freeman, a friend of Maggie's and an up and comer, against whom Mickey has a winless record. Because of his client's foreclosure activism, the case has huge media attention, with the probability of book and movie deals to help pay for her defense. However, after signing a contract giving Mickey the authority to make such deals, Lisa signs another with Herbert Dahl, a bottom feeder filmmaker who pays her bail.

After discovering that the victim, Bondurant, was facing his own foreclosure, Mickey starts building an argument to plant seeds of reasonable doubt by showing that Louis Opparizio, head of a foreclosure mill that the bank used and whose practices were in question, had strong motivation to have the banker killed. As the defense develops, Mickey begins to believe that this client (unpleasant and uncooperative as she is) might actually be innocent.

It's a tough case. Mickey is betrayed by someone close to him, is beaten up, and is sandbagged by his client's Facebook interactions. He uncovers a link to east coast organized crime. His actions in the case begin to sabotage his improving relationship with Maggie. The courtroom dramatics are gripping. And when it's all over, Mickey has come to a life-changing decision that will take the series in an intriguing new direction. Can't wait!

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