By Michael Connelly
Review by Ron DeSourdis
"He used to feel like an outsider with an insider's job. From now on he would be a full-time outsider."
Harry Bosch is off the force again, and this time it appears to be permanent. After a long career as homicide detective for the LAPD (he was already presented as a veteran cop when he debuted in his -- and Connelly's -- initial novel The Black Echo in 1992, and I for one have been a fan ever since), Bosch has had to accept mandatory retirement. His new role is not a comfortable one so far, and not just because of little annoyances he never had to bother with when wearing a badge, like having to pass through the courthouse metal detector, or properly feeding parking meters. It's more central to Harry's personality: he is now without "the mission he had carried for nearly thirty years -- catching killers." And he may be just a little bit bored.
This does not mean, however, that he'll jump at the chance to do some private investigating for his half-brother, "Lincoln Lawyer" Mickey Haller, who is defending a former LA gang member accused of a vicious killing. Not only does Harry suspect that Mickey's insistence that his client has been framed is just another version of the "outrage" act the attorney routinely uses in front of a jury, but he realizes that by doing defense work he will be considered a traitor by his former colleagues. But it does finally occur to Bosch that if Haller is right, the (at this point seemingly likely) conviction of his client would mean someone else would get away with murder. Given this incentive, Harry grudgingly agrees to review the police files that have been turned over to the defense.
Although the story in the main is seen through Harry's perspective, Connelly here has resisted any temptation to use first-person narration (so common in P.I. novels) as he did in his detective's previous two outings working a private investigation: Lost Light from 2003 and the following year's The Narrows. This is for the best as far as I am concerned, as I don't think it worked as well for this protagonist as it has for many others (so many, in fact, that the device had long ago become a cliché in any case).
Despite Bosch's private status, the book can fairly be called a police procedural, as he methodically goes about using the same investigative techniques he always has, although occasionally with more difficulty absent his former law-enforcement credentials. It also, without hammering away at it, shows us how two characters who both feel they are working to achieve justice can have such different ideas as to exactly what that means. Though we cheer for Harry Bosch throughout the novel, we (and he) are shown how easily the prosecutorial slant can lead to false conclusions (perhaps a future episode spotlighting Haller will allow him a similar enlightenment from the opposite side of the coin).
Add to that some truly vile villainy, a roster of nicely shaded characters, and a plot which maintains both interest and suspense, and we have another satisfying entry in this highly successful series. Connelly deftly blends Harry's personal relationships with the criminal investigation, building up to an exciting action climax as he has done numerous times in the past two-decades-plus. It is testimony to this author's skill that the results never seem in the least formulaic. The big question at the conclusion is not about guilt or innocence, but just this: where will Harry go next?
By the story's end he is still conflicted about his role on "the dark side," as he still views criminal defense. But he is too much the detective to simply stop. And I think I can safely speak for many crime novel enthusiasts when I say we don't want him to, and look forward to the next Harry Bosch mystery.
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Respectfully submitted by Ron DeSourdis, December 2015.
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