So often I am asked for suggestions on which book to read. Usually, I ask what is the person interested in, does he or she like the hard-edged stories or the softer ones, and even what the person’s occupation is. The answers factor into my recommendations.
Except when it comes to children.
Since I don’t read young adult or juvenile mysteries, I often am at a loss for recommendations. Time is the only issue on why I don’t read this category of mysteries.
But the next time I am asked, I have an answer ready: Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon.
Zora and Me is inspired by the early life of African-American author Zora Neale Hurston and is set at the turn of the 20th century in a southern black community.
As Nancy Drew empowered girls of another generation, so does Zora and Me, which is all about girl power.
Zora, the “girl detective,” takes her investigating very seriously, sneaking out of the house, ease dropping and following clues. In Zora and Me, Hurston is a bright fourth grader who lives with her family in an all-black Florida town, around 1900. Zora, Carrie (the first-person narrator) and their friend Teddy investigate after a man’s headless body is discovered by the railroad tracks. Sounds like a female version of Stephen King’s “Stand by Me.”
The real Hurston often wrote about racial problems and became famous as being a part of the Harlem Renaissance writers. She wrote four novels, more than 50 published short stories, and several plays and essays. Her most famous novel was Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937.
Although she died in poverty and obscurity in 1960 while living in Florida, her work continues to make an impact. About 500,000 copies of Hurston’s books are sold each year, according to the Zora Neale Hurston Trust, created in 2002.
Zora and Me is the first book not written by Hurston to be endorsed by the trust.
Now I know what to recommend the next time friends ask me what their daughters should be reading.
McConaughey’s smooth delivery, the way he flirts with Mickey’s near-conman persona and his cynical view of the law makes us almost forget that the actor has become more famous for starring in a string of dumb comedies or being photographed running shirtless.
McConaughey aside, The Lincoln Lawyer works so well as a movie because it is as faithful to Connelly’s 2005 novel as it can get. It doesn’t scrimp on the twists and turns that Connelly wove into his novel nor does it neglect Mickey’s crisis of conscience, his angst about being a part-time father or the integrity that he has buried deep inside.
While a few elements of the book aren’t included, The Lincoln Lawyer keeps the spirit of the novel. Everything that needs to be in the movie version is here, even some of the dialogue.
The movie also has the look of and affection for Los Angeles that is pure Connelly. Each of Connelly’s novels is an homage to L.A., illustrating its best and worst. That is there on the screen including panoramic views of the cityscape.
Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer set a new milestone for this best-selling author. While faithful readers had long known that Connelly was a master at creating new, intriguing characters whether in his Harry Bosch novels or his stand-alones, he took a step further in The Lincoln Lawyer.
Here was, at first glimpse, an anti-hero of sorts, the epitome of what many of us believe is wrong with defense lawyers. The kind of lawyer who specializes in getting off his bottom-feeder clients. The kind of lawyer who is proud of the ads he’s placed on bus benches and billboards.
That the lawyer conducts business from the back of his Lincoln town car added to the anti-hero mystique.
Betrayal, manipulation and greed imbue the plot. In the film and the novel, Mickey is hired to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy accused of attempted murder. Mickey is blinded by the dollar signs he sees in this case, but he also wonders if his client may be that rarity – an innocent man.
Each cast member shines in The Lincoln Lawyer. Phillippe’s wide-eyed innocence belies a seething ruthlessness. Phillippe makes us both want to offer Louis comfort and our unshakeable belief in his innocence while also making us very afraid. Oscar winner Marisa Tomei displays a steely resolve as Maggie McPherson, a prosecuting attorney who also is Mickey’s ex-wife and the mother of his daughter. The chemistry between Tomei and McConaughey shows us why their characters are divorced, yet still attracted to each other.
The always fascinating William H. Macy adds a bit of levity to his solid performance as Frank Levin, Mickey’s private investigator. Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston makes the most of his role as detective Lankford; as do country singer Trace Adkins as Eddie Vogel, the leader of a motorcycle gang; Shea Whigham (the sheriff on Boardwalk Empire) as jailhouse snitch Corliss; and John Leguizamo as bail bondsman Val Valenzuela.
While I still prefer the book to the movie, The Lincoln Lawyer has captured the essence of Connelly’s solid novel.
Connelly’s next novel also is a Mickey Haller novel, The Fifth Witness is due out April 5.