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Literature / The Fifth Witness

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The Fifth Witness is a 2011 mystery novel by Michael Connelly, featuring defense lawyer Mickey Haller.

The downturn in the economy has caused fewer and fewer people to be able to afford high-priced criminal defense lawyers like Mickey Haller. Looking for work, Mickey has gone into civil law—specifically foreclosure law—and helping distressed homeowners fight eviction. This winds up yanking him back into criminal law when one of his clients, Lisa Trammel, is arrested for the murder of mortgage banker Mitchell Bondurant.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Brown: Haller is seen this way In-Universe by an Hispanic client, who tells Rojas that Haller looks like he should be able to understand Spanish.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mickey's ex-wife Maggie shows up at his house unannounced to berate him, because he used Maggie's connection with prosecutor Andrea Freeman to get Freeman to hand over discovery materials. She yells at him, he yells at her, and it ends in sex.
  • The Cameo: Mickey's half-brother Harry Bosch makes an appearance at his birthday party.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Murder victim Mitchell Bondurant was an executive at WestLand National Bank. That was the bank that was robbed waaaaay back in the backstory to Michael Connelly's very first novel, The Black Echo.
    • The umpteenth reference to fictional movie studio Archway Studios, first mentioned in Connelly novel Trunk Music and in several novels since. Haller also says that former Archway head Walter Elliot was a client of his once—that is the plot of novel The Brass Verdict.
    • Mickey mentions that Harry Bosch worked a case with him the year before. That's Connelly novel The Reversal.
    • Mickey says that the rare old gun left to him by his father has "a tragic history." This was the climax to The Lincoln Lawyer.
    • When Detective Kurlen proves surprisingly willing to turn over discovery material to Haller, Haller says it's because he and Kurlen "have a history". That's a reference to The Lincoln Lawyer, and how Haller helped Kurlen find and convict the true guilty party in the Martha Renteria murder.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lisa Trammel's husband has been missing for years after running out on Lisa and their little son. Subverted in the end, when it turns out she killed him and buried him in the backyard.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The "Fifth Witness" is known as such for being the fifth person to be called by Mickey Haller to testify during Lisa Trammel's trial and taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.
  • Drop the Hammer: The murder weapon used to cave a banker's head in.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Lisa Trammel gives a child a balloon at a party, and Haller instantly figures out how she managed to strike a much taller man in the top of the head with a hammer—the victim was looking up, at a balloon.
  • Exact Words: Being a lawyer, Mickey Haller is a big fan of this trope.
    • He chooses not to tell the judge that one of the jurors had a father who suffered a foreclosure, because the juror question was, "Have you or anyone in your immediate family ever been involved in a foreclosure?" ("The word 'ever' was not in that sentence.")
    • Mickey's junior associate, Jennifer Aronson, has a more developed sense of ethics. When she expresses skepticism about Mickey's courtroom stunt in which he asked a witness to pick Lisa Trammel out of a photo she wasn't in, he says, "I asked the question. Could she point out where Lisa was in the photo? I didn't say Lisa was in the photo."
  • Foreshadowing: Lampshaded. A detail (a freshly turned garden in the suspect's home) is introduced, and Mickey Haller says, "It was what the great filmmakers would call foreshadowing." In the end it is foreshadowing, but in a different way from what Haller guesses.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Foreclosure Litigants Against Greed.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mickey Haller's decision to turn away from criminal defense work and run for District Attorney at the end of the novel is portrayed as this.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Lisa Trammel is guilty. Haller can't do anything about that, but he can send in an anonymous tip that will lead police to her other murder, namely her husband who is resting quietly beneath her flower garden.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: Mickey Haller's firm website,, is a real site that will redirect to some information about the book.
  • Mythology Gag: A producer muses that Matthew McConaughey would be good to play Mickey Haller in a movie. McConaughey actually did play Mickey Haller in the film version of The Lincoln Lawyer, released that same year.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Lisa Trammel would have gotten away clean after two murders—but she just had to taunt her lawyer.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Mickey Haller receives one.
  • Rewatch Bonus: There's a reason why Lisa Trammel was so desperate to hang on to her home. Namely, her husband's corpse is buried in the backyard.
  • Sequel Hook: Ends with Mickey Haller deciding to run for DA. However, this sequel hook is subverted in The Gods of Guilt, which reveals that Haller's nascent political career ended in scandal and defeat.
  • Shout-Out: Mickey alludes to the "If you build it" philosophy when commenting on how he attracted clients for the field his law firm expanded to.
  • Title Drop: The prosecutor describes Opparizio as "a Fifth witness", that is, someone brought to the stand solely so Haller could badger him into taking the Fifth Amendment.
  • Title Drop Chapter: The last part, which includes the climax in which Mickey Haller gets his client off and then figures out who was the murderer, is called "The Fifth Witness".