Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MICHAEL CONNELLY'S "THE GODS OF GUILT": FULL OF HIGH JINKS, MISDEMEANORS AND MURDER!

I have had "The Gods of Guilt:  A Lincoln Lawyer Novel" by Michael Connelly on my stack of "books to read" for a while. In fact, I believe I have this book listed on my long abandoned "lineup" of books I intend to read and review posted on the top of this blog.  As it turned out, I put his book to the side until I got to the point where I wanted a truly absorbing, entertaining book because this is what Michael Connelly always provides on a consistent basis.  Sometimes after a long stretch of hard work, a good book is exactly what you need to recover.

This book, "The Gods of Guilt" appears to be #5 in the Lincoln Lawyer series coming after the eponymous novel by that name, "The Brass Verdict", "The Reversal", and "The Drop" which indicates I have a lot of fun ahead of me doubling back to read those books as well.  I mean, I read and enjoyed the first one, "The Lincoln Lawyer" but I didn't read the subsequent ones, although that didn't end up being a problem in terms of missing any background.  Luckily, I didn't feel the lack.  

Anyway, before I proceed, let me make note of the fact that Michael Connelly is also the author of the Harry Bosch series which has recently been dramatized on Amazon Livestream to widespread acclaim.  According to the blurb on the back of the book jacket "The Gods of Guilt" which was published in 2014 (so in two years he may have done a whole lot more!) Mr. Connelly has written 25 books which have sold 50 million copies worldwide and he has received numerous awards. Wiki adds that his books have been translated into 39 languages!  Ok, so we've got success here.

"Gods of Guilt" is about a small time pimp--Andre La Cosse--who does his dirty deeds on the internet, (but is still a pimp nonetheless) who sends one of his girls, Giselle, to a customer at the Beverly Wilshire.  When Giselle tells Mr. La Cosse that the customer didn't show up and refuses to pay him his share, they have a confrontation. Two hours later, she shows up dead--strangled--and the police consider Andre La Cosse their prime suspect.  

In comes Mickey Haller for the defense, and he is even more committed when he finds out that the victim was an old client of his he thought he had rescued from the life.  Initially, all evidence points towards Mr. La Cosse's guilt but then further investigation appears to indicate that the police themselves could have been complicit in planting evidence. 

True?  Untrue?  Read more to find out.  

The "Gods of Guilt" to which the title refers is a concept that echoes meaningfully throughout the book. As the protagonist, Mickey Haller, first indicates, the phrase refers to the 12 person jury that literally holds a Godlike power of life and death over the accused in any murder trial.  In fact, like God, the presence of the jury during the ongoing murder trial taking place throughout the novel, whether it is listening to evidence, taking notes, filing into the court, or filing out of the court, is an ongoing constant that holds our attention.  

As we also learn as the novel unfolds, the "Gods of Guilt" refers to the many dead in the protagonist's life who also hold him to account.  

Even more deeply, the "Gods of Guilt" as a concept relates to how we as a society are implicated in the various acts of criminality that occur all around us.  What do we see, and what do we choose not to see.  

On a more concrete level, the book asks the question, if an attorney is so clever he is able to get a guilty client released back into the community to harm others again, is he responsible for that further harm?  If so, if such an attorney were to simply not defend his guilty client so diligently, would that be in any way justifiable? Isn't an attorney ethically speaking, required to defend his client's rights to the fullest extent of the law, particularly when doing so protects the fundamental constitutional rights that safeguard the innocent?  

These are the kinds of complex questions this book asks which engages readers and challenges them to think.  

As a person who has spent a great deal of time in family court, not criminal court, which is very different, I did appreciate the court scenes.  They were well choreographed and suspenseful.  On the other hand, to be honest, I thought Michael Connelly pushed the boundaries of hearsay in the court scenes and I often did not find his evidence or testimony admissible.  I mean, I'm not the judge, but seriously!  

I did appreciate how Mr. Connelly reproduced how mean judges often are to the defense.  Judges treat winners in a case or the prosecution with kid gloves, but when you are the underdog, yes, as Michael Connelly describes, judges will say things like, "Stop wasting the court's time" or "Why don't you get a move on".  That's happened to me when I represent myself and it is disruptive. 

I don't want to perseverate too much on this book, but I will say there are some pretty intense scenes, complex plotting, and touching moments throughout.  As I have said, Michael Connelly is a master writer you can count on, so you know you are going to have a great read when you pick up one of his books.  

One beef I have with the book is the final scene; the author provides us with two.  Both endings I consider not very credible, though reasonably entertaining.  But I will leave that all up to you to consider.  If you'd like to comment on that point once you've read this book, I'd welcome any thoughts you have. 

For more information on this book, see the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Guilt-Lincoln-Lawyer-Novel/dp/1455575992/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470244704&sr=1-1&keywords=gods+of+guilt

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