The lousy economy of recent years, like lousy economic times of any era, has the potential to give rise to engaging, compelling works of fiction. Thus, the mortgage crisis and the Great Recession are inspirations for Michael Connelly’s The Fifth Witness.

Times are so bad that even Connelly’s attorney Mickey Haller not only has to work out of his car for a while, but has to moonlight, too. On top of his usual criminal defense work, he represents folks in less tony pockets of L.A. who are in danger of having their homes foreclosed upon. He’s not quite a sad sack—he does drive around in a chauffeured Lincoln, can still afford his Corneliani suits and nobody’s in line to take away his house. But he does have the mournful decency we’ve come to expect of the good lawyer or private eye, and his heart, natch, has been bruised by a woman or two.

One winter’s day, Haller’s roles as criminal defense attorney and delayer of foreclosures meet when one of his clients is accused of murdering the banker who wanted to take her house.

Writers of crime novels must be sneaky and Connelly is a master of sneak. The payoff comes at the very end, as we know it must. Connelly takes but a couple of sentences to set you up—“Here it comes at last,” you think—then the hammer comes down. Literally. The end of The Fifth Witness gives the reader one of the best, no-good, nasty feelings ever.

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