The Wrong Side of Goodbye – Michael Connelly

If you have read any of the Harry Bosch books, you know what you are going to get here: the grumpy but determined detective making his way to solve a crime, regardless of the cost. The setting now is slightly different, with Bosch out of the Los Angeles headlights, and operating as a sort of volunteer detective for the nearby town of San Fernando.

Harry’s main challenge in San Fernando is to track down a rapist. But, simultaneously he is rather naughtily working on a private commission from a dying billionaire to search out a possible heir to his fortune.

Although this is a well constructed book, with a decent plot and interesting characters, it doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights of Connelly’s best work.

For example, the search for the heir has no real bite to it, despite attempts to inject some edge to the investigation. And the hunt for the rapist doesn’t seem to be as pressing as you might expect. The narrative falls somewhat flat in places, and even when the action and the interest picks up, it’s not enough to restore the book to the top of the quality tree.

If you are a fan, you will read this and love it. I thought it was OK, but that  underwhelming impression might be because Bosch is on his way out, and the author’s attention is clearly moving on.

If you have not read any Michael Connelly, don’t start here; instead go back to the first Bosch book, The Black Echo, and read them in order. By the time you get to this one (the 19th according to the official list) you’ll be well hooked and gladly excuse the author a less than perfect performance.

 

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The Crossing – Michael Connelly

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Harry Bosch, former LAPD detective, is thinking about crossing over to the other side by taking up the role of investigator for someone accused of murder, to see if he can find the evidence to establish the man’s innocence. Of course, Bosch wouldn’t consider this for just anyone, and it is his half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer Micky Haller who is the defense attorney.

The journey that Bosch goes on, as he is drawn into the complex criminal undertaking that is hiding behind the murder, is the usual Connelly fare – it is well told, well paced, exciting, and full of little surprises. Bosch is an exquisite character. Haller is also a good foil, but he gets less exposure here, and is truly a hook to justify Bosch taking center stage.

The story is a solid police procedural one, with nothing that really makes it stand out from any of Connelly’s other work. So, it is good, but not brilliant, and certainly not his best. While there was a certain advantage in taking Bosch out of his comfort zone, it did not seem to be enough to give the story a special kick. However, if Bosch continues in this way, perhaps there will be a fresh impetus and a renewed energy in the storytelling.

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The Burning Room – Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch, one of the classiest defective detectives, makes a return to action in this somewhat mixed tale of the Open Unsolved Unit.

On the plus side, there is the crime to be solved: a musician dies from complications of a gunshot suffered ten years previously. The death allows the recovery of the bullet – lodged dangerously in his spine – giving a rare piece of forensic evidence that Bosch and his partner can use to restart the investigation.

And that’s also on the plus side: Bosch’s new partner, Lucia Soto, is a rookie detective with an interesting background and some baggage. Their workings as a team are well done, and nicely build up the pair of them as characters with depth.

Also on the plus side is the start of the plot, and the way it spirals in a surprising direction. Unfortunately, I was less than convinced by the time the ending came along, as I felt the story got lost a wee bit in the middle. It definitely picks up well in the last quarter.

LA, LAPD, politics, and corruption are all here in the usual and expected places. The author knows his city well, and does his usual excellent job of bringing all these elements to life without sounding like a tour guide or political commentator.

There were times – perhaps because the plot had gone soft in the middle – that the book was less enthralling than I have come to expect from this author. Mundane is the word that comes to mind. (Of course, this is ridiculous, because the work being described is anything but mundane. However, reading as much crime fiction as I do, my sense of perspective is skewed. So, to me, it’s mundane.) But, as mentioned above, at some point there is a return of that page turning experience we all love.

In short, glad I read it. Not one of his best, but given the incredibly high standards of his output, still pretty damn good. If you are a Connelly fan, you will want to read it. If you are not a Connelly fan, don’t bother. If you have yet to discover Connelly, start elsewhere.

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The Gods of Guilt – Michael Connelly

Micky Haller (the Lincoln Lawyer) is back in action. This book opens with a courtroom confrontation that displays the lengths to which the defense lawyer will go to, for his client. Some may find those lengths unattractive. He certainly sails close to the wind. Without spoiling the plot, let’s just say that Haller lives up to the suggestion that lawyers are but frustrated actors on another stage.

After that distraction, the central thread is Haller’s defense of an electronic pimp, accused of the murder of a prostitute client – a former client of Haller’s. The defense team goes to work and the story rapidly heats up, speeds up, and steams on. It’s a good Connelly tale, with twists and danger, though not one of his best. It lacks a certain something to make it top quality, but it is good.

On the plus side, the usual Haller character depth, warts and all. The plot is well constructed, and the pacing is excellent. On the minus side, we have the seemingly enforced references to Connelly’s other creation, Harry Bosch, as well as the film of Haller’s life that featured beforehand.

Good, but not great.

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The Black Box – Michael Connelly

This novel sees detective Harry Bosch look back at an old (1992) case which he came across during the Los Angeles riots. Still unsolved, Harry remembers the naive (daft?) promise of justice he then made to the victim. Now working in the Open Unsolved Unit, the case comes back to his attention, and a fresh investigation is started.

Connelly does a wonderful job of drawing the reader in to the investigation (and the story) as the threads from some surprising quarters, are woven into a cohesive whole.  It’s safe to say, without disclosing any of the plot, the author has done some solid research outside his usual areas of expertise, and used that research wisely.

In terms of character, Bosch is one of the best. In terms of backdrop, Connelly knows, loves, and reproduces LA as a super support for the developing plot. In terms of story, Connelly is a master and this is one of his good performances. The plot unfolds with fine, steady pacing, building up the pressure so that the violent finale is almost inevitable. And, in terms of flaws, if the book has one it is that the final confrontation has one ‘get-out-of-jail’ card that stretches the suspension of disbelief. However, it’s a very minor flaw, as the overall impression is of a great story, well told, delivering high quality entertainment.

Score: 8/10

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Rosh Hashanah Reflections

I spent the three day break (two days Rosh Hashanah plus one day of Shabbat) doing what I normally do on such occasions: a bit of shul, a bit of sleep, a bit too much eating, and quality family time. The first bonus was that I got some game playing in. The second bonus was Continue reading

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