ORION, £18.99 Order for £17.09 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Fifth Witness, By Michael Connelly
A story that gives society little credit
Monday 16 May 2011
It's a moot point just how responsibly popular fiction can address serious issues of the day, as opposed to simply mining such things for material.
But as ammunition for those who feel that crime fiction is a formidable tool, Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness is useful. This is a trenchant novel that, within the framework of a diverting entertainment, makes some persuasive points about a nation in thrall to the banks (the US, but, by extension, this country) – and about the limits of personal responsibility.
The issue of foreclosures – the incendiary topic that has brought about so many economic woes – powers the plot. Connelly's opportunistic but sympathetic lawyer, Mickey Haller, is making a speciality of keeping roofs over his clients' heads. A whole industry has grown up around the burgeoning foreclosures, involving manipulative bankers, crooked brokers and even untrustworthy activists. By pointing out the loopholes used by the banks to evict people from their homes, Mickey is able to buy some precious breathing space. But he is no idealist, and is well aware that his clients are in situations of their own making.
His most tricky client is volatile Lisa Trammel, who has made herself massively unpopular with the bank trying to evict her by staging street demonstrations and harassment of bank personnel (she is under a restraining order). Mickey, while fighting her corner, is wryly aware that Lisa spends very little time considering that she needs to pay her debts. Things become much darker when mortgage broker Mitchell Bondurant is murdered – and Lisa is in the frame. Mickey (while harbouring doubts) moves into high gear in order to defend her. He has a mass of problems, not least his client's personality, but as Mickey learns about the murder victim's dubious subsidiary businesses, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.
As ever, Connelly makes Mickey the perfect conduit through the hazardous jungles of LA courtrooms and low-rent neighbourhoods. But the social underpinnings here are what really engage the author: The Fifth Witness will not be comfortable reading for bankers, but neither is it indulgent towards those who feel that the world owes them a house and a living. Mickey may champion the latter, but he knows that most of his clients will end up on the scrapheap. This is as diverting an outing for Connelly's hero as we have been granted.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 3 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 UK weather: 'Coldest night of the year' tonight as freezing temperatures plummet to -10C
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE for 'religious mistakes'
Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
Doctor Who and the BBC 'promoting a gay agenda', viewers complain
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk