The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
The Gods of Guilt, a juicy courtroom drama starring LA legal eagle Mickey Haller, centres on Haller’s defence of one Andre La Cosse, a ‘digital pimp’ charged with the murder of an escort named Giselle Dallinger, who advertised her services via an online platform run by La Cosse. When she is found murdered in her home, all eyes turn to La Cosse, who is led by an unethical police interview into disclosing that he and Giselle had a money-related argument at her home on the night of her death.
Is he the culprit? Haller doubts it, but the first question he must answer is why La Cosse, a stranger, called him in the first place. Haller was recommended to the pimp by Dallinger, who, it transpires, was once a client of Haller’s under her real name, Gloria Dayton.
Haller had thought he’d succeeded in rescuing Gloria from the game by funding the start of her new life in Hawaii. Little did he know she’d return to the SoCal underbelly and catalyze one of the most memorable, not to say treacherous, episodes of Haller’s eventful career. Along with the luckless La Cosse, The Gods of Guilt stars a shady DEA agent, a crooked district attorney investigator, a high-level operator in the Mexican Sinaloa cartel who is no less lethal for his incarceration, and a disbarred lawyer (not Haller, though he risks heading that way).
The latter character, David ‘Legal’ Siegel, was the law partner to Haller’s father and became a surrogate parent when Haller Senior died prematurely. Ball games have been replaced by legal strategy sessions in Legal’s retirement home, where the nurses are outwitted by a cunning Haller, who uses the secret compartment in a briefcase to defy the kosher rules and smuggle in meat-rich treats for his mentor’s delectation.
The Legal/Haller scenes are particular highlights in a novel packed with sparkling conversation, and more poignant than you might expect: both men are lonely and given to reflect on their screw-ups, which in Haller’s case has caused estrangement from his teenage daughter. Aside from Legal, his closest friend is his driver and sometime client, Earl.
At this point in his life, and in the fifth novel in the Haller series, the attorney’s career has inspired a movie, The Lincoln Lawyer (art imitates life: Haller references his celluloid appearance, though doesn’t name-check his on-screen alter ego, Matthew McConaughey), and less happily, lately involved a failed and ignominious bid for the office of district attorney. After this, as he says, “the law had become more than a craft and a calling. It kept me sane”.
What he doesn’t add is that at the time he meets La Cosse, the law has become his most constant companion, and the thrill of The Gods of Guilt – a reference to the omnipotence and absolute judgement of a pool of jurors – is accompanying Haller on the wild ride as he rediscovers his passion and expounds on the unique physiology of the courtroom and the psychology of those who ply his trade, all while eluding the very worst that can be meted out by the panoply of sociopaths in his path. It’s as if he were blessed by the gods.
Previously reviewed on Coast FM.
Reviewer: Stephanie Jones