Memory and Books

I think upstream I mentioned that I was reading books by Michael Connelly (and others) that I had read before. For example, last week I finished reading Connelly’s The Poet. I know I’ve read it before because, apart from anything else, I remembered who the baddie was. The strange (or funny) aspect was that I could not remember anything else. No line of dialog, nor scene presented as something I had experienced before. It must be 20+ years since I read the book, and I guess my memory for that type of stuff isn’t as good as I thought it was.

On the other hand, when I moved on to Connelly’s The Narrows, I also couldn’t remember anything about it. Not a thing. Eventually, I realized why. A completely different reason. Although I loved Connelly’s books, 20 years back I wasn’t keeping up to date with new stuff other than by regularly browsing the local book shops. (Remember them?) I couldn’t remember any of it because I hadn’t read it before. I missed it. Wow. Maybe there are more Connelly books that I missed.

Nowadays, given the online marketing that publishers do, I doubt I’ll miss another Connelly book. I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing.

Fiction – January 2020

You can tell I’ve been on holiday. There’s a lot of reading here. (Probably some of these belong with December’s reading, but at least I remembered to review them.)

Part of my Connelly reread. This one involves a dead body found in the trunk of a car. Bosch sorts it out, but not without some more danger, some twists, and the usual inter office politics. Great stuff.

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Fiction – November 2019

This was the month I went back to the Spenser series with a vengeance.

First of a projected trilogy, this fantasy novel was slow to take off, but eventually got its act together. It may have suffered from needing to set so many base lines for future plots as it failed to grab me the way Abercrombie’s other work has. Still well worth reading, and I’ll be looking out for the next one.

Number 16 in the series. Our man – or ‘educated thug’ – Spenser is tasked with looking into allegations of corruption in a college basketball team. Is the star player being paid off? Inevitably Spenser comes up against those who do not want him to find out what is going on. Through it all, Spenser delivers his trademark smart alec dialog with no concession to political correctness. Our hero gets to show off just how good he is in this better quality encounter.

If this type of stuff is of interest, don’t start midway. A chunk of the value in reading the books is seeing how the character and his accomplices and foes develop. Start here.

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Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly has a great track record as one of the finest crime writers of all time. This is not his finest hour. (If you are looking to start on a Connelly book, don’t start here!)

The problem is that the book features one of his oldest and finest characters – long in the tooth angry old detective Harry Bosch – and one of his newest – newcomer Detective Renée Ballard. What comes across is that the author is tired of Bosch and wants to finish him off. However, it appears he doesn’t feel confident enough that Ballard is a strong enough character to generate the same loyalty. So, Connelly is keeping the pot boiling. Unfortunately, to do that this time around, he delivered a decent enough tale but one that lacked the fire and passion I would have expected.

The story, such as it is, involves Bosch dragging Ballard into a cold case. (Is there any other kind, he half-joked.) Both are trying to find out who murdered Daisy Clayton, a 15-year-old runaway, back in 2009. The back story is good, as is the characterization on an individual basis. But it lacks sizzle. The plot doesn’t excite, rarely surprises, and sort of limps along. One red herring takes up an inordinate amount of time and space to no great effect. Bosch seems to be less of a whole character without his daughter. And Bosch and Ballard don’t spark the same atmosphere when they are working together. It lacks chemistry.

The ending was a bit of a disappointment. Rarely would I have thought that was even possible for Connelly.

All in all, it was OK, but not up to the standards I would expect from this author. Good, but not good enough.

Two Kinds of Truth – Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is in trouble. A killer he put away a long time ago is about to be released because new evidence – evidence that puts Harry in the firing line. At the same time, he is trying to help his colleagues in the San Fernando police department after a double killing at a local pharmacy. Harry is the guy with the most extensive experience of dealing with this type of case, and his bosses have no real option but to let him call the shots. Harry does his best to keep things going in the right direction, while managing the resources and egos around him. And then there’s the small matter of the undercover operation…

If you have read any Bosch books, you will be on familiar territory. Harry’s half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer Micky Haller, is involved as one of the final showdowns is a courtroom drama. It’s well done, indeed, and confirms that the author is as sharp as ever.

Highly recommended.

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.


The Crossing – Michael Connelly


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.

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.

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.