“The Call of the Dark…”

11:24 PM 1 AUGUST 2020

Terry McCaleb has a new life on Catalina Island, with a house on the hill and his boat in the marina. New heart, new wife, new baby. Life is good. Yet, when an old colleague (Jaye Winston) comes calling for his skill as a former FBI profiler, McCaleb is immediately smitten by the lure of his past life and a return to the darkness.
The murder under investigation is particularly violent and gruesome. The victim, Edward Gunn, had been implicated in a murder six years earlier, but was never charged by the LAPD and the case was reluctantly dropped. The lead investigator had been Harry Bosch.

Immediately the story conjures up the potential clash of two titans of the justice system chronicled by Connelly and the author skilfully sets the scene for his most tenacious predators …”The cool air of the shark grey dawn…”.

In the courthouse, McCaleb also bumps into journalist Jack McEvoy in a passing nod to another of the author’s stable of well-known characters, but as the big beasts circle each other, it’s clear that’s where the action will be. Bosch makes no bones about his assessment of Gunn as a scumbag and retains a sense of being deprived of the opportunity to sweat the guy (due to Bosch shoving the intervening Lieutenant through his office window and getting himself suspended). But, for fans of the Bosch series, this interlinking of books and characters is fascinating and offers real depth to a pool of work that continues to deepen, though the respective novels can also stand alone. I am continuing to wade through them in published order and in this seventh novel featuring Bosch, the perspective of former agent McCaleb enables the author to really plumb the shadowy world that the two men choose to infiltrate. Still, when McCaleb identifies a tentative connection, or coincidence, potentially linking Bosch to Gunn’s murder, the two men would appear to be on a collision course. Moreover, the implied threat to Bosch’s integrity and reputation risks undermining his current murder prosecution.

The main tenet of the book is pondered by McCaleb. “You don’t go into the darkness without the darkness going into you.” and this is surely the point for the reader. McCaleb and Bosch are both hardened lawmen, perhaps even desensitised by their lengthy exposure to evil, but their mutual hankering for an almost gladiatorial lifestyle should be as much a cause for concern as a relief. Society perhaps needs such ‘soldiers’, but must also continue to demand that ‘ends’ are indeed through justifiable ‘means’.

Michael Connelly is a master of intrigue and this book is certainly thrilling, as it casts a light on two compelling characters that choose to work in the shadows.Another excellent example of why the author is among the best in his chosen genre.

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.