Michael Connelly hunted around for Micky Haller for a bit. There were a few stand-alone works, but other than THE POET and BLOOD WORK (and maybe CHASING THE DIME) they were almost excessively exercises to keep the creative engine alive.
THE FIFTH WITNESS is the fourth book in the Mickey Haller Series, and finds Connelly in a groove with this character and the larger narrative of Mickey's world. Mickey has fallen on difficult times as he is representing clients whose homes are being foreclosed. It is tedious work, but it pays the bills. Mickey is itching for something new and exciting. He gets in spades when a client is charged with murdering a bank executive. Down the path Mickey will go with his close cadre of support. For Mickey guilt or innocence has little to do with justice, and everything to do with playing every angle of the system with an unshakable belief that the prosecution is exploiting the system in the exact same way.
Of course this moral ambiguity shades all of the Haller stories. While it has allowed Mr. Connelly to build layered stories and characters that live in a very real world, I have to admit that there is something wholly more satisfying about Harry Bosch's righteous execution in a world of good and evil. It seems odd to say that I have always found the Mickey Haller books to be realistically pessimistic. Everyone is compromised, it just depends the amount of dirt that weighs you down. The Bosch books are generally darker affairs, but with Harry there is this ray of hope, this desire for a life of grace.
My preference aside THE FIFTH WITNESS is still an expertly rendered story. Crime Fiction generally gets a bad rap because of its genre trappings, but they are still a reflection of the society in which they were created. And to that end, Mr Connelly documents the desperation of people at the end of a very dark rope.