Alone in the Dark…

12:55, 29 November 2020

The first case for Harry Bosch since relinquishing his LAPD detective’s badge a year ago and a sense that the series’ readers are being prepared for a new direction, but not yet. Even shorn of the most potent symbol of his personal mission, this story confirms the fire energizing ‘Mr’ Bosch isn’t even damped down, never mind extinguished. Indeed, retirement has provided Bosch with that most precious commodity – time and when an ex-colleague, Lawton Cross, gives him a call, Bosch is soon back on the job. 

As noted recently in “A Darkness More Than Night”, the main character is dogged in his pursuit of justice and unsolved/unresolved cases are mentally archived and copies of the investigation records retained, pending further consideration. Five years earlier, Bosch, Kiz Rider and Jerry Edgar were the first responders to the murder of a production assistant from a movie company. However, when a $2m dollar heist occurs on a film set just a few days later, the case is transferred to the Robbery Homicide Division. It galled Bosch that the young woman’s life wasn’t considered important until the money was stolen. In any event the RHD investigation went nowhere and when the two detectives involved were the victims of a bar shooting, the case was shunted onto the unsolved pile. The incident had left Lawton Cross in a wheelchair, his partner dead. 

There was also the spectre of a missing FBI agent linked to the case bringing more echoes from the past hoving into view. Special Agent Roy Lindell (also appeared in ‘Trunk Music’ and ‘Angels Flight’) knows the value of Bosch’s involvement and runs interference for him, while former prosecutor, Janis Langwiser (‘Angels Flight’ and ‘A Darkness More Than Night’) provides some heavyweight legal cover. 

Since Bosch ‘pulled the pin’ his former partner, Kiz Rider, traded a career in the RHD for the greasy pole of the Chief’s Department, angered by his decision to walk away. But, though Rider is sent to warn him off, Bosch has never been one to surrender in the face of authority and well-versed in the respective agency processes and scare tactics, he’s fleet of foot enough to duck and weave past the pitfalls devised by the LAPD and the Feds. 

Bosch’s kryptonite remains his estranged wife and former FBI agent, Eleanor Wish. Settled in Las Vegas and making a living as a professional poker player, the intimate bond between the couple remains, but neither can compromise and risk their respective vulnerability. It’s a gnawing sensation for Bosch, the loss of the light in his life and an interesting diversion for the reader from the intricate plot of the investigation. Bosch also reflects on the very different relationship between Lawton and Danielle Cross, but they are equally casualties of circumstance, their lives marred by a shared history, from which there can be no escape. Amid the familiar thrill of Bosch’s relentless pursuit of justice, in this book the author poignantly captures the sense of multiple losses weighing on the main character, but the very satisfying denouement also hints at a potential source of salvation.

The story arcs that link characters intermittently across the series continue to demonstrate a remarkable feat of storytelling, but the gradual exposure of Harry Bosch, warts and all and the ongoing description of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, through his eyes, remains compelling, even as I move inexorably towards Book 10 in the series (‘The Narrows’). 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Marooned in Venice…

12:15 29 November 2020

Book 8 in the Harry Bosch series and the enigmatic main character is once again having a bit of a time of it. When the Deputy Chief describes one of his officers as a “shit magnet”, even the broad shoulders of Detective Bosch might feel the urge to sag a little, but as we have learned in the series thus far, above all Bosch is a resilient guy. 

Just as well! After the frenetic, testosterone-steeped rutting of Harry Bosch and Terry McCaleb in “A Darkness More Than Night”, this book is, by comparison, a far more reflective, sombre affair. Notwithstanding child murder cases are the worst kind in Bosch’s view (“they hollowed you out”), this story also sees the main character beset by female colleagues and needing to wrestle emotionally with a former lover (coroner, Teresa Corazon) and former partner (Kiz Rider), current boss (Lt Grace Bilets), and a potential new romantic interest (Patrolwoman Julia Brasher). The plot also maroons Bosch outside of his comfort zone and offers the reader a glimpse of another side of the undistilled macho hero.

The book’s dramatic title was coined by an archaeologist for a mundane method of applying a grid to the crime scene. Still, the attendant challenges of addressing historic crimes are interesting and the need for a forensic anthropologist is a first for the series. The case also acknowledges (more than others) the tough miles that often underpin the investigative journey, with Bosch poring over microfiche records, sifting information, following leads.

One of the consistent elements of the series that this reader especially enjoys is the description of the locality through the eyes of Bosch. Never having been to California, the imagery evoked by the author fascinates and informs in equal measure, on this occasion introducing the reader to Venice, stateside. The running sore that is the relationship between Bosch and Deputy Chief Irving is also further irritated, but arguably the detective’s most redeeming quality is his insistence on keeping the department honest and not giving way to expedience. However, as he once more rails against departmental politics, in this episode Bosch discovers for the first time that the ‘cage’ of his job did not provide the safe haven he supposed and his allegiance to the LAPD must be evaluated anew.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The Place Where the Desert is Ocean…’

12:45 AM 31 MARCH 2020

Another thrilling book by Michael Connelly, but a departure from the author’s familiar menu of detective novels that I have been voraciously consuming in chronological order. Not that there aren’t crimes perpetrated, murders (quite a number) committed and a host of intriguing rogues to ponder. Yet, without the long, heroic arm of the law to interfere, the book lacks the obvious duel between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ , ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Instead, the reader is invited to throw his/her loyalties behind a robber/kidnapper (Cassie Black), rather than the ‘security consultant’ and psychopathic killer, with connections to the mob (Jack Karch). Of course, there are complex mitigating circumstances, which become clearer as the story unfolds, making it easier to root for the underdog, but the story, mainly set in Las Vegas is essentially a crime novel wherein the rules of the jungle apply and brazen quick wits may not be enough to overcome ruthless vested interests and well organized muscle.

Cassie is working in car sales following her release from prison in the euphemistically named ‘High Desert’ and keen to avoid a recall. However, with just fourteen months to see out, under the watchful eye of Thelma Kibble, her parole officer, the timeline is suddenly shrunk leaving Cassie needing big money, quickly, if she is to get away as she dreamed and make a fresh start.


On the one hand Cassie knows that the risks are huge, but despite the years of incarceration, the adrenaline of ‘outlaw juice’ has not been purged from Cassie Black’s system. Nor, has the sense of loss following that fateful night six years before, when her lover and charismatic mentor, Max Freeling, had died at The Cleopatra casino in Las Vegas. The book’s pervasive sense of destiny and inevitable symmetry though is encapsulated in the astrological musings of his step-brother Leo Renfro, who identifies potential jobs and has grave misgivings about the harmful influence of the ‘void moon’, which should be avoided at all costs.


For me, the protagonist in this novel, Cassie and her antagonist, Jack Karch, are quite weak characters by Connelly’s standards. Indeed Karch is almost a pastiche of the Las Vegas mobster and yet it is the ‘bit-part’ players that save it. Instead of concentrating on developing the main characters, in Thelma Kibble, Leo Renfro, ‘Jersey’ Palz (kit man) and Vincent Grimaldi (owner of The Cleo’) the author has, perhaps inadvertently, shaped far more interesting characters. That such cameos are more memorable than the key characters suggests a flawed story and yet it carries the hallmark pacy suspense and action associated with Connelly. Still, this diversion from the main course of the Harry Bosch series of novels does lend this book the feel of a ‘light bite’, an entree, ahead of my return to book seven in the series (‘A Darkness More than Night ’, 2001). At least my appetite has been piqued.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Bosch Drinks Deeply from the Poisoned Chalice!

10:00 AM 1 MARCH 2020

Howard Elias was a high-profile, but contentious Los Angeles lawyer, whose stock-in-trade was suing the LAPD. He only filed in the federal court and typically under the civil human rights codes, whereupon his skilled use of social media also rubbed salt into the open wound of racial tension that scarred the city. Elias was reviled by police, revered by those he represented, but when he is gunned down on ‘Angels Flight’ (a historic inclined railway and downtown landmark), the authorities are immediately fearful of a potential backlash and the possibility of a return to the violent racial riots of 1992. Realizing that many would believe the murder was perpetrated by the police and accordingly be mistrustful of their investigation, it falls to Deputy Chief Irving to hand this poisoned chalice to Detective Harry Bosch and his team. It’s a decision that carries risk. In such a politically-charged atmosphere, Bosch, Edgar and Rider know that their selection is a cynical nod to ethnic diversity, but they’re also capable investigators, with integrity and will demand that the chips fall where they may, despite attempts to stifle their efforts by the inclusion of Internal Affairs and the FBI.

Indeed, there are distractions aplenty for Bosch in this sixth book in the series, as his short-lived marriage to Eleanor Wish is in melt-down, his path is crossed once more by arch antagonist from the IAD, John ‘Sustained’ Chastain (see ‘The Black Ice’ and ‘Trunk Music’) and a succession of barriers arise, including a leak from within the department, barring his way to the truth. Readers/fans are, of course, familiar with the irreverent attitude of Bosch to the political calculations of his bosses and his resilience at being repeatedly thrown under the bus of investigations with the capacity to combust spectacularly, but he is also unerringly loyal to his team colleagues (past and present) and is always willing to take a hit for them.

In this powerful story, the plot is so much more than the obvious crime of murder and is as much about the hidden network of associates connected to the late Mr Elias and a swirl of cases,causes and effects, past and present, which continue to keep a fatal momentum of their own. In the impending ‘Black Warrior’ court case, Elias was again confidently primed to expose the depth of corrupt police behaviour and the inept nature of another flawed investigation by the LAPD. With the rhetoric of charismatic preacher Reverend Tuggins fanning the flames of a smouldering sense of injustice, in sections of the community, Bosch needs to solve the murder and prevent a potential miscarriage of justice, which could ignite the whole tinder box. Meanwhile, the book also draws into view those characters with politicized appointments tasked with fronting a system of justice that is seen to be good enough and must spin the unpalatable truth in ways that Bosch understands, yet despises.

Whilst the detective’s perspective of what’s right is laudably heroic to the reader, the body count that follows is high and I do wonder at the burden on his conscience moving forward. Still, Conelly also weaves lighter moments into his book, such as the poster advertising Clint Eastwood’s film “Blood Work” (a rather droll reference to his earlier title, wherein reality and fiction are neatly combined). In any event, I am compelled onward to “A Darkness More Than Night” (Book 7 in the series), with a real spring of 4 star satisfaction in my step.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Ultimate ‘Skin in the Game’….

6:54 PM 15 FEBRUARY 2020

Another exceptional tale from the pen of Michael Connelly, though again this book strays from my ‘as the crow flies’ list of novels featuring Harry Bosch. Instead, the author introduces the reader to ex-FBI agent, Terrell (‘Terry’) McCaleb, who will (I am reliably informed) cross paths with Bosch further downstream in the series. Recently retired on health grounds, McCaleb is grappling with profound changes in his life. On the upside he is living on his late father’s boat, ‘The Following Sea’ and planning a permanent move to his spiritual home, Catalina Island. More challenging, McCaleb is recovering from a recent heart transplant, but just as the reader is processing this interesting scenario, Connelly wrings more intrigue from it, by engaging the reluctant retiree in a search for the murderer of the organ donor, indirectly responsible for his own survival. Still, if the central idea is cleverly innovative, the execution of the fairly complex plot is at times simply sublime.

In my earlier review of novel, ‘The Poet’, I observed that there were similarities between the main character (journalist, Jack McEvoy) and Harry Bosch and the same can be said of former agent McCaleb, but that does not detract from the slick plot, wherein he must operate without the authority that an FBI badge provides. Moreover, the posse of new characters arranged around McCaleb help develop the story in ways that might be more difficult for officers of the law, bound by the processes of criminal justice.

The frail condition of McCaleb post-op’ is both a catalyst for action and an attendant risk, with potentially fatal consequences if he can’t nurture his new heart. Indeed, the rhythm of the book has the reader’s pulse eerily paired with McCaleb and the trials of a painstaking investigation. That his involvement is at the emotional request of his saviour’s bereaved sister (Graciela Rivers), just ramps up the pressure on McCaleb and the imperative that her sister’s sacrifice and his survival is justified. The guilt that swirls around McCaleb, as the unwitting recipient of the young mother’s life chance, beset by a debt he can’t possibly repay, is poignant and sensitively handled by the author. However, inevitably McCaleb must also overcome the competitive architects of, thus far, fruitless investigations by LAPD, the bureau and a local Sheriff’s department, if he is to put things right (as far as he can) and combat the notion that he had most to gain from the donor’s death!

In common with the earlier novels, Connelly’s gritty portrayal of Los Angeles and its environs suggests a warts and all fondness for the area, which seeps into his characters. Certainly the boat into which McCaleb has been cocooned may yet see him emerge a quite different man, especially if he can land a suitable companion for his onward voyage.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the meeting of McCaleb and Bosch anticipated in Book 7 in the series (‘A Darkness More Than Night’). Once again Michael Connelly has created a puzzling and compelling page-turner, with a main character, in this instance, destined to literally have ‘skin in the game’. I toast the author’s ingenuity and the strength of his imaginative powers with 4.5 well-deserved stars.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Tarnished Gloss of Sin City and Tinseltown

12:18 PM 14 JANUARY 2020

Book 5 in the series and another case for Harry Bosch with all the twists, turns and adrenaline-inducing plunges of a parkour outing. When a body turns up in the trunk of a Rolls Royce, abandoned in the hills above L.A, it has all the hallmarks of a professional hit. Yet, when the ‘Organised Crime Intelligence Division’ (OCID) passes on an apparent ‘whack job’, though surprised, Bosch is quick to pick up the baton and start joining the dots from a film production company in Hollywood to the original sin city, out in the Nevada desert.

Bosch is newly reinstated at the homicide table, after his imposed absence and designated the lead investigator of a team with two other detectives, partner of six years Jerry Edgar and rising star Kizmin Rider. All are operating under the watchful gaze of newly-appointed Lieutenant Grace Billetts (replacement for the late Lt. ‘98’ Pounds), who comes with a reputation for being tough, enough to earn the moniker ‘Bullets’, behind her back.
One of the things I enjoy about the Bosch series is the melding of old and new and the author’s grasp of complex detail across a substantial series of novels. Characters arrive and may disappear, to re-emerge later, while even the ever-present characters in the cast may undergo changes conferred by disparate lives. For example, Medical Examiner, Dr Jesus Salazar, is now wheelchair bound following a motorbike accident; former FBI-agent, Eleanor Wish, must rebuild her life after a prison sentence handed down in ‘The Black Echo’ (Book 1); and Harry Bosch is reconstructing his home after the effects of the Northridge earthquake saw it demolished in ‘The Last Coyote’ (Book 4).

In a return to the style adopted in that last book, the author does away with chapters, instead, dissecting the book into ten ‘parts’ of varying lengths, which chunk the story into an easily digestible format. Still, Connelly has an unerring knack for also blurring the ‘goodies’ and the ‘bad uns’ and threading his plots with ethical dilemmas, to test the most pure of motivations. Even the cities take on a persona, such as when Bosch is contemplating Las Vegas “…No matter how much they tried to dress her up with neon and family entertainment, she was still a whore.” But, of course, it is within such dark recesses that the criminal underworld and therefore Harry Bosch thrives. Indeed, the theme of this particular tale might be, ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Not everyone who wears a badge can be trusted, any more than every associate of the mob can be assumed to have made poor choices. The corrupting influences of power and money are evident on both sides of the street.

As seems the norm for Bosch, he is destined to push the boundaries of procedure and thereby the patience of even those notionally on the same side. His saving grace, of course, is that he gets the job done, albeit using unusual methods and exceptional intuition and brainpower, though there was also a ‘keystone cops’ moment in this story. I was slightly wrong-footed by the ending too, perhaps because I have been conditioned to empathise with the dark clouds and lashing of rain that tends to drench Bosch’s life, but it would be curmudgeonly to deny the main character his day in the sun. Another four star rating from me and the prospect of some serious changes to Bosch’s situation in Book 6.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Talking Truth to Power

11:14 PM 3 JANUARY 2020

“Death is my beat…” is the kind of dramatic opening at which Michael Connelly excels and it’s a fitting introduction to the main character of this 1996 novel, ‘Rocky Mountain News’ reporter, Jack McEvoy. I should perhaps stress that this is NOT a Harry Bosch detective story. Notwithstanding my intention to run down the lengthy Bosch series of novels, my learned friend and aficionado in such matters advised there was value in this (not so short) diversion that would see seeds sown, to be reaped later. Time will tell. However, the sure-footedness of the author’s writing style certainly made this standalone companion to my literary pilgrimage, worth paying homage to. Indeed, there are parallels between the detective and the journalist and just as Harry Bosch has previously found himself enmeshed in the FBI, so in this novel, it is the turn of Jack McEvoy to work alongside the Feds, in an investigation spanning a number of states.


The catalyst had been the death of Jack’s twin brother. The lead investigator on a horrific murder case, Detective Sean McEvoy had allegedly committed suicide, overwhelmed by the attendant emotional trauma. The evidence had been weighed quickly, to turn an embarrassing page for the local police department, only Jack wasn’t buying it. What if, instead of assuming suicide, it was assumed that Sean McEvoy was the victim of a homicide? Could the evidence support such a radically different interpretation? The police aren’t the only agency with investigative resources and by pulling hard on the loose threads, Jack begins to unravel a whole world of pain.


Not only is the dynamic flow of the plot reminiscent of the Bosch novels, in Jack McEvoy, the author has also embedded some very familiar traits. Intelligent, but stubborn, rebellious, but loyal, determined, but at times naive, there is something very satisfying about the maverick character cocking a snook at authority and in so doing establishing his integrity. Of course, as a former crime reporter for the LA Times, Michael Connelly is well-placed to lift the lid a little on the role of the investigative journalist and the inherent tensions between the guardianship of the public’s ‘right to know’ and those clandestine operatives tasked with keeping the public safe from harm, on a ‘need to know’ basis. With trust on both sides in short supply, the author also has fun with it, in the inevitable romantic incursion across boundaries. Though this lighter plotline perhaps eases the discomfort, which flows from the disturbing portrait of a clinical serial killer.


All-in-all a very satisfying, but challenging read and the sequel (‘The Narrows’) comes in at number ten in the Harry Bosch ‘hit parade’. In fact, last week the third book in the ‘Jack McEvoy series’ has been announced (‘Fair Warning’ due out in May 2020). This intertwining of characters and series is turning my simple trek through an interesting body of work into something of an odyssey, but the journey is made all the more interesting for it. Still, I am also indebted to my Twitter buddy @JoeBanksWrites who is up ahead on the reading list climb, like my very own literary sherpa! Next stop for me, Book 5, “Trunk Music” (1997). See you at the top!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wrestling with the Past

9:37 PM 11 DECEMBER 2019

Book 4 in the Harry Bosch detective series and the precision in the moving parts of this 1995 novel remind me of an exquisitely crafted watch. The mainspring is, of course, the irascible Bosch, dynamically driving the plot forward, meshing the various components into a beautifully balanced whole, testament to the skill of a master craftsman. And there is no doubt that Michael Connelly is an exceptionally gifted storyteller.


Just as “The Concrete Blonde” dissected the main character through a retrospective legal examination of his most notorious case, so there was an inevitability in Bosch’s re-visiting of the crime, which had dictated so much of his life – the murder, 35 years earlier, of his mother. Time had always predicated against such a foray into a very private investigation, however, the ‘involuntary stress leave’ conferred on Bosch, following his assault of a superior officer, provides the opportunity. Moreover, the recent terminal, tectonic damage done to his home and probably to his relationship with Sylvia Moore, propels him to the conclusion that this is the right time. Not that Bosch accepts his side-lining graciously, but just as his former courtroom cross-examination told us much about the man’s personality, in this installment, the compulsory sessions with police psychologist, Carmen Hinojos, proves a clever vehicle for the reader to journey back to the childhood trauma that contributed so much to the complex character of Harry Bosch.


Whilst the author has an uncanny knack for evoking curiosity about Los Angeles, the strangely exotic, but oppressive environment in which the main character thrives. Again, in his pursuit of answers, Bosch ventures further afield, this time to Florida, where the change of air and the trading of pollution for an unfamiliar ocean has a detoxifying effect and even allows a recuperative, romantic encounter, which for a time seems to penetrate the detective’s hard outer shell.


Just as the earthquake is literally a ‘leveller’, the story also has the feel of decks being cleared for a new phase. By enabling Bosch to shed some weighty emotional baggage, the need to rebuild a new home, a new intimate relationship and a dramatic reboot of his position in the LAPD, Bosch has been allowed to glimpse a life outside of the suffocating intensity of human depravity, in which he has been immersed for so long. Whether Bosch is able to break free of the gravitational pull of criminal justice and his personal mission, which has hitherto held him fast, may be revealed further into the series. Still, this novel has the feel of a seminal moment and commands a slam-dunk ‘5-stars’ for its compelling plot and thought-provoking denouement.

Seconds out…Book 5 awaits…

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Three’s a charm…

7:24 PM 16 NOVEMBER 2019

Book 3 in the lengthy series of Harry Bosch novels was published in 1994 (Book 24 came out in September 2019) and as with its predecessors it could stand alone. Indeed, I think this was the best so far, in my ongoing discovery of what makes the maverick LA detective tick.


The earlier novels (see my reviews of ‘The Black Echo’ and ‘The Black Ice’) allude to the ‘Dollmaker’ case, which lent some notoriety to Bosch, not least because he shot dead the supposed serial killer. But, now the late victim’s widow, represented by the reputed lawyer, Honey (‘Money’) Chandler, is challenging the legality of the lethal force used and even postulating that her innocent husband was simply the subject of an execution. By contrast, for his trial under civil rights law, Bosch is defended by an inexperienced lawyer from the DA’s office, clearly out of his depth and when a new body is found, with all the hallmarks of the original killer, Bosch is confronted with the prospect of his career and reputation being publicly shredded.


Away from the courtroom, the thread of Bosch’s burgeoning relationship with Sylvia Moore successfully tethers this novel to the previous book and reveals the tension in the detective’s attempts to satisfactorily balance a life so dominated by the demands of criminal justice. Still, it is the metaphorically ticking bomb of the court case that drives the pace of the book and the main character’s race to prove that his original action was justified.


Michael Connelly is a master of suspenseful drama, but as the plot hurtles along, he is also able to insert some memorable pauses, often describing the author’s beloved California, or a poignant moment for Bosch, a chance for the reader to reflect and ponder, before dashing on to a breathless conclusion. It can be exhausting, but also utterly compelling.


The reader knows that Bosch is emotionally damaged and torn between his ‘mission’ as a homicide cop and his desire for a life in which his priorities might be different. His lover, Sandra Moore, struggles with the same issue. “…He felt at home with her. That was the best thing. That feeling. He had never had it before…” Yet, while Bosch hankers for a quieter life, he also remains addicted to his adrenaline-gushing role as a dogged crime fighter. They both know he won’t give it up willingly.


Curiously, but unsurprisingly, Bosch also becomes a begrudging admirer of his legal adversary, perhaps seeing in the tough and ruthless prosecutor (‘Money’ Chandler), a reflection of his own personality. Their cerebral and verbal duel dominates the courtroom, while outside and during ‘intermissions’ a fast-moving investigation continues into the murder of the ‘concrete blonde’, racing against the pronouncement of a verdict, the contest refereed by a dour local judge.


Notwithstanding Bosch has given evidence in court many times, never in his own defence and surrendering himself to such scrutiny is an excruciating experience. But, the onslaught of intrigue and animosity, disloyalty and attempted scape-goating of Bosch, plants the reader very much on the detective’s side. The binary labels of ‘monster’ and ‘hero’ proffered to the jury, distilling the opposing perspectives in the battle of ‘rights’ and the actions/motives attributed to the police officer called upon to make a split-second decision, in contrast to the lengthy deliberations of the legal process. I found this an absorbing read and worthy of a place on my favourites shelf. Book 4 has a hard act to follow!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Beware the Black Ice!

8:53 PM 6 NOVEMBER 2019

Notwithstanding the glamour normally associated with Hollywood, Los Angeles and the advertising hype surrounding California more widely, the unvarnished description favoured by Michael Connelly remains curiously fascinating. Whilst Harry Bosch can look down from his hillside home and appreciate the distant grandeur of tinsel town, through his main character, the author also takes us onto the streets for a microscopic probe of an altogether darker and dangerous place. A place where drug dealers seek to dominate a lucrative market and casual violence and corruption are simply a means to an end.


‘Black ice’ is the latest export from Mexico, a mixture of coke, heroin and PCP and its manufacturers are aiming to displace the hitherto dominant Hawaiian variant. However, when the body of a police sergeant from the narcotics squad is found in a cheap hotel with gunshot wounds to his face, Bosch isn’t necessarily buying the suicide explanation, still less the desire of the LAPD hierarchy for a sanitising investigation that potentially draws a veil over officers that may have ‘crossed over’.


For me, the abiding interest of the book concerns the respective journeys of its key characters and the contrasting outcomes. The contrast too between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ of LA, but also cross border, in the portrayal of Calexico and Mexicali, towns with shared origins, but with very different prospects for their respective inhabitants, located on either side of the US/Mexico border. In a sense, part of the fascination with Bosch and his investigations certainly lies in his seamless traversing of these different worlds and the insight he offers to the voyeuristic reader, peering into unfamiliar places and lives.


Once again, in this novel, the rancorous detective is simultaneously fending off the internal politics of the LAPD that threatens to fetter his ability to root out the truth. But, in a departure from the lone, maverick investigator narrative, we also learn something about how Bosch’s work seeps into his private life. That he should be attracted to the widow of the murdered colleague and the attendant complex challenges, is just somehow very Bosch. And yet, it is the latent complexity of the character and his slow reveal that I suspect deliberately seeks to intrigue the reader, every bit as much as the capacity of Harry Bosch to solve the immediate puzzle, the arc of the detective’s private story, peeled like layers of an onion, whilst straddling episodic criminal investigations. For example, in this novel, Bosch recalls his only meeting with his dying father, but also signals the prospect of siblings and the discovery of a family, albeit they were unaware of his existence.


Clearly the author is very adept at meshing such detail, both in terms of the case at hand, as well as the broader canvas of his creation’s life. But, Connelly also weaves into his writing interesting asides, such as the existence of the border towns (both are real) and an ‘insect eradication programme’, which in this case is used as a front for the infiltration of ‘black ice’. Such details seem to be a feature of the series so far, but they keep the storytelling fresh and interesting and the same is true of the main character. Bosch is familiar with the violence and deprivation that characterize survival on the streets and the lure of gang culture and though he doesn’t excuse it, he understands and deplores the exploitation of the desperate, through the greed of the strong. His mission of holding those who misappropriate the lives of others to account is inherently satisfying, with a moral dimension, but it is focused unashamedly on the perpetrators rather than the unfortunate victims. And so to book three…

Rating: 4 out of 5.