by Michael Connelly
I've been saying since Angel's Flight that Michael Connelly is the best author writing today. He's willing to shake up his series character, LAPD detective Harry Bosch, and allow us to see him in different ways. In A Darkness More Than Night, we got to see Harry from the perspective of Terry McCaleb, Connelly's other series character, who's investigating Harry who was charged with murder. And, most shocking, at the end of the last Bosch novel, City of Bones, Bosch was so fed up with the red tape of the LAPD, that Connelly allowed Bosch to hand in his resignation. However, Connelly wasn't ending the Bosch series; he was only allowing us to see a different angle of Bosch.
Recalling the opening of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, Bosch shows up at a rich movie executive's home in his best suit. He has gone to ask about a woman who was murdered when Bosch was still on the police force. You see, when Bosch retired, he took his unsolved case files with him, and some of the untouched cases still haunt him.
The woman Bosch is asking about was killed at the movie exec's studio and the case was eventually overlooked, when an armored truck delivering two million dollars as a movie prop was hijacked. But Bosch never forgets, and after asking around, he gets warnings from some of his old co-workers, namely Kiz Rider, who asks him to stay out of the case.
Writing in the first person for the first time, Connelly finally gets us inside Bosch's head. Unfortunately, the first third of the novel's prose feels very heavy-handed. Bosch's ruminates about his "mission" to the point of almost being tedious.
Please! Somehow, when reading Bosch in the third person, his "mission" didn't seem so overbearing, but now, hearing him talk about it at every moment, it gets annoying. The reader and Connelly both seem to need to adjust to the new writing perspective, much as Bosch is adjusting to being retired.
As Bosch begins to sift through the murder, the FBI, a paraplegic ex-cop, productions studios, his former wife, and Hollywood clubs become involved. When one of the marked dollar bills from the robbery turns up with a suspected terrorist, Bosch becomes entangled with the newly created Homeland Security division of the FBI. This is where Connelly begins to shine. He ratchets up the suspense as Bosch becomes more and more involved with the Feds, who are trying to keep him off the case. But in true private investigator tradition, Bosch only becomes more stubbornly determined to solve the case.
Once Connelly gets past writing about Bosch's mission, the novel really begins to move along. Bosch is most interesting when he's dealing with others. Particularly enjoyable are those scenes when we follow Harry as he tries to interview suspects and find clues, and the difficulty he has making the transition from an insider to an outsider. The interactions with characters, the paraplegic especially, have a Chandleresque feel, very dark and moody.
Getting into Bosch's head is well worth your time, and Connelly still keeps up his run of quality works. The ending of the novel is a surprise, but works with Connelly's theme of balancing the light and darkness of his mission, and the last third of the book is absolutely riveting. I'm already counting the days to the next Bosch novel hoping he continues as an LA private eye.
Review submitted by David White, April 2003. Thanks, Dave.
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