Tag Archives: Michael Connelly

‘Fair Warning,’ by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is best known for his brilliant series of Harry Bosch police procedural novels. But he has other series. The most minor of these (only in terms of volume count) is his Jack McEvoy series. I have a personal fondness for Jack, because it was the first J.M. novel, The Poet, that introduced me to Connelly’s work.

Jack McEvoy is a journalist, occasionally a famous one. He broke a couple big serial killer stories, and parlayed them into bestselling books. But time moves on. There isn’t much work for journalists these days, and Jack’s books have settled back into publishers’ midlists; he can’t live on the royalties. So, as Fair Warning begins, he’s working as an online journalist, for a consumer web site called Fair Warning.

Jack gets a visit from the police. A woman with whom he once had a one-night stand has been murdered, and he’s briefly among the list of persons of interest. But she did a lot of dating, it turns out.

Still, Jack is curious and troubled by the murder. He does some research and discovers that this woman has one thing in common with several other recent female murder victims – she had contacted a popular DNA mapping site on the web, to make contact with relatives.

Jack’s beat isn’t homicide anymore, but he can’t let this go. He goes to the one person he knows who could really help make sense of this thing – Rachel Waller. Rachel used to be a top profiler for the FBI. Now – thanks to a mistake on Jack’s part – she’s doing research for an insurance company. Also, Rachel and Jack are in love, but Jack keeps messing up and spoiling their prospects. Still, she is intrigued by Jack’s theory and agrees to help him.

They will learn horrifying things, both about the potential for abuse in the field of genetic testing, and about the amoral world of Dark Web communities.

I enjoyed Fair Warning very much. It was nice to catch up with Jack and Rachel, and the story was satisfying. I was a little disappointed to see that a political message was inserted in a couple places, but it’s a message that’s perfectly natural for Jack as we know him.

Cautions for language and mature, sometimes troubling situations. Recommended.

Michael Connelly vs. Raymond Chandler


Below the title on the front cover of Michael Connelly’s new novel is a quote: “‘Connelly is the Raymond Chandler of this generation’—Associated Press.” This is unfair to Chandler and Connelly both. Chandler wrote like “a slumming angel,” as Ross Macdonald said. The  bravura style of The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and the other titles on the Chandler shelf is one of the glories of American literature, influential worldwide. Connelly’s sentences are workmanlike, unremarkable. But Chandler couldn’t plot to save his life, whereas Connelly is a master of the art. Chandler was brilliant, undisciplined, alcoholic, demon-ridden, quick to take offense and quick to sneer; he wrote only a handful of novels. Connelly is disciplined and generous, and he excels at collaborative work (for instance, the Bosch TV series produced by Amazon) as well as solo writing; Fair Warning is his thirty-fourth novel. Chandler’s moral sense, in some ways acute, was often unreliable; Connelly’s is sounder.

John Wilson on Michael Connelly and Fair Warning

Amazon Prime Review: ‘Bosch,’ Season 6

Barrel, Bosch, & Crate, photo credit: Lacey Terrell, IMDb

Has it actually been six years we’ve been enjoying Amazon Prime’s outstanding Bosch series? This isn’t exactly the world, or the characters, you’ll find in Michael Connelly’s bestselling crime novels, but it’s true to the spirit of the exercise. And Titus Welliver, as I’ve often said, has the character of Harry Bosch nailed.

This season, like the previous ones, is based on more than one book. So you’ll need to pay attention to keep the multiple story lines straight. Plot lines include the murder of a scientist near the famous Hollywood sign, which at first looks like part of a terrorist act by right-wing extremists. But it’s a lot more complicated than that, and police mistakes lead to serious blowback. There’s also a cold case, one of Harry’s “everybody matters” crusades, in which he tries to find the murderer of a teenaged street prostitute, attempting to give her mother some closure. And Harry’s partner Jerry Edgar is deep in an investigation of Haitian street gangs, which brings up bad memories of his own childhood in Haiti and leads him to contemplate crossing some lines.

It’s all intense, and fascinating, and compelling. A couple of points linger with me. I appreciated the expanded role for the Mutt ‘n Jeff detective team known as “Crate and Barrel,” older guys who started out pretty much as comic relief, but are now being permitted to demonstrate the qualities that earned them their gold shields in the first place.

Also the series took an interesting approach to its Alt-Right extremists. Although they’re clearly in the wrong, they’re given a chance to make their case, and they’re not entirely unsympathetic. Also – very oddly – they’re depicted as a multiracial group. I appreciate that touch, though I don’t find it very plausible (could be wrong).

Anyway, I consider Bosch one of the best series on any entertainment delivery system at the present time. Extreme cautions for language and mature themes.

‘The Night Fire,’ by Michael Connelly

I’ve cut out buying the pricey books for the time being. But it turns out I’d pre-ordered Michael Connelly’s new Harry Bosch/Renee Ballard book, The Night Fire. So I read it, and now I’ll review it.

As you may recall if you’re following the books (not the Amazon Plus TV show), Harry Bosch is pretty old now (about my age), and is retired as an LAPD detective. But his old motto, “Everybody matters or nobody matters,” still drives him, so he finds ways to keep involved. Mostly by providing help (off the books) to the young detective Renee Ballard. Renee works the night shift, which she likes, because it allows her to work alone. (She can generally call on Harry if she needs backup.)

One night Renee gets called to a scene of death by fire. A homeless man has burned to death in his tent. It looks like an accident, but investigators say no. However, the case is assigned to Robbery-Homicide, and Renee gets shut out. But she doesn’t forget about it.

Then Harry Bosch receives a surprising legacy. An old cop, once his own mentor, died recently, and he left something behind for Harry. It’s a “murder book” – a ring binder containing all the case notes for an old homicide investigation. The thing was police property, and should not have left police custody. The case involves the murder of a drug addict in his car in an alley. For the life of him, Harry can’t figure why his old friend stole this book, or kept it. There’s no sign he ever investigated it on his own.

What follows for both Renee and Harry is a case of what I call “retro-telescoping prioritization,” a situation where you set out to do one thing, but can’t do that until you do another thing, but there’s something else you have to do before you can do that. The plot of The Night Fire gets fairly complicated, and I lost track of a few threads now and then. But it all comes together in the end, and there’s a suitably suspenseful payoff.

The Night Fire was not the best book in the Harry Bosch saga, but it wasn’t bad. Cautions for language and adult situations, and a brief public service announcement about gay rights. Connelly fans will enjoy this new installment in the series.

I am concerned about Renee Ballard, though. She’s surviving on a diet of coffee and surfing. If she doesn’t resolve some of her personal issues, she’s gonna crash hard.

‘Dark Sacred Night,’ by Michael Connelly

Dark Sacred Night

Rejoice. Michael Connelly has brought out a new Harry Bosch novel. Except Harry’s getting long in the tooth (apparently he’s grown his mustache back too. I’m pretty sure he shaved it off a few years back), and is not technically an LAPD detective at all anymore. So in Dark Sacred Night he teams up with Connelly’s new detective character – surfer chick-detective Renee Ballard, heroine of The Late Show.

Renee is the victim of sexism in the department, and has been exiled to the “the late show,” the night shift. Surprisingly, she’s found she kind of likes that shift. She’s surprised when she sees an older cop rummaging in a filing cabinet one night. She learns that it’s Harry Bosch, who’s investigating a cold case – the murder of an underage prostitute, Daisy Clayton. Harry knows Daisy’s mother, who is a drug addict and recently cleaned herself up. She’s living with Harry right now, and he promised her he’d try to find the killer. When Renee learns about it, she wants in, and Harry and she find they work pretty well together. They’ll need that synergy when the case gets dangerous, and the brass interfere.

Not the best of a long series, Dark Sacred Night is a satisfying but somewhat downbeat visit with an old friend, professionally delivered. Recommended with the usual cautions.

‘Two Kinds of Truth,’ by Michael Connelly

Two Kinds of Truth

“Look, I’m sorry. But I wanted to catch these guys. What that kid did, the son, it was noble. When this all comes out, people will probably say he was stupid and naïve and didn’t know what he was doing. But they won’t know the truth. He was being noble. And there isn’t a lot of that out there in the world anymore….”

It’s amazing how Michael Connelly manages to keep the stakes high in his long series of Harry Bosch detective novels. At the beginning of Two Kinds of Truth I was thinking that the formula was getting a little old, but before long I was fully invested. Harry Bosch is a driven character, a man with a near-Christian sense of vocation, and you can’t help starting to care as much as he does.

Harry used to be a police detective in Los Angeles, but he’s past retirement, and now he works on a semi-volunteer basis for the police department in San Fernando, a small, autonomous enclave within greater LA. His official task is cold cases, which he loves, but because he’s the most experienced detective available, he ends up working current cases as well. Continue reading ‘Two Kinds of Truth,’ by Michael Connelly

‘The Late Show,’ by Michael Connelly

The Late Show

Michael Connelly introduces a new detective character in his latest novel, The Late Show.

He’s obviously studied his market, because he delivers the precise kind of detective readers want today – a feisty, alienated woman cop.

Renee Ballard works “The Late Show,” police slang for the 11:00 to 7:00 shift, in Hollywood. She’s there because she had a personal conflict with a former superior. The Late Show is where cops are sent when nobody wants them. Late Show cops don’t even get to work cases to the end – they have to hand them off to day shift detectives in the morning.

One night Renee is called to the scene of the brutal beating of a transsexual prostitute. Then there’s a multiple shooting at a night club. Renee follows up certain clues relating to one of the victims, a waitress, even though it’s somebody else’s case by then. This sets her on a road that will lead her into tremendous personal danger, and to corruption in high places.

As you’ve probably guessed if you’ve been reading me a while, I’m not enthralled with Renee Ballard. It’s doubtless my misogyny (I don’t like women sent into danger, which makes me evil, of course), but I don’t approve of woman cops. And this woman has issues. She’s not a team player, and she consciously steps on other officers’ investigations. If I were her commander, I’d demote her too.

But The Late Show is a good novel by one of the best writers in the crime fiction genre. I recommend it on its own merits, with cautions for language, violence, and sexual situations.

Amazon Prime Video Review: ‘Bosch,’ Season 3

Bosch Season 3

I’m pretty sure I reviewed Bosch, the Amazon Prime Video series based on Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch mystery novels, earlier on this blog. Still it’s been a while, and I just finished the new third season, so I’ll praise it again. Because it is quite good.

Harry (Hieronymus) Bosch is a Los Angeles homicide detective. He’s a military veteran and has a high case clearance rate, though he can be a pain in the anatomy to his co-workers and superiors. He’s almost obsessively by the book in his work ethic, but he can cut moral corners when he feels it’s justified. He is in fact motivated by inner demons, but he keeps them buttoned up.

In this third season, the first major plot line involves a reprehensible Hollywood producer (that’s an oxymoron, I suppose), who had a lowlife acquaintance murdered because he knew too much about a previous murder he’d committed (this is complicated by the fact that Bosch has been pursuing the guy himself over another matter, and has the murder on film, which he can’t use because his surveillance is illegal). The second big plot line centers on a group of former Army Special Forces guys who pull off a big theft and aren’t shy about killing people along the way. Their combat skills make them formidable adversaries for Bosch – and eventually for each other. Continue reading Amazon Prime Video Review: ‘Bosch,’ Season 3

Watching ‘Bosch’

Bosch

I’ve been watching the third season of Bosch on Amazon Prime Video. In one episode, I noticed a detail that intrigued me.

Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) lives in a house partly supported by stilts, on a hillside in the Hollywood Hills, just as in the books. In one shot I noticed a framed poster on a wall.

It was a poster for a movie or a novel (I couldn’t tell) called The Black Echo.

The Black Echo is one of the novels this season of the show is based on.

So even if you imagined that a book had been written or a movie made about Bosch’s adventures (such a made-for-TV movie is in fact a plot element), and called The Black Echo, there’s no way either one could have been done about an adventure that isn’t even over yet.

The poster is a wink at the viewer from the production team. A very subtle breaking of the proscenium.

I expect that sort of thing happens more in movies and TV than I’m aware of.

‘The Wrong Side of Goodbye,’ by Michael Connelly

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch cop novels are a long-running series. They’re bestsellers for good reason. Connelly writes tight, well-crafted novels with engaging characters. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a sterling entry in a saga that shows no sign of flagging.

Aging detective Harry Bosch is no longer with the Los Angeles Police Department. He was terminated at the end of the last book (he’s suing them for it). But he’s got a private investigator’s license. He’s also working part-time, on a volunteer basis, for the financially strapped police department of the suburb of San Fernando.

For the San Fernando job, he’s working on a series of rapes by a creep who cuts through screen windows in women’s homes. A recent victim got away from him, coming away with fresh clues Harry and the other detectives can use to get closer to a solution. Their main handicap is simply lack of manpower, something that will put a member of the team in genuine peril.

Meanwhile, in a scene right out of Raymond Chandler, Harry (wearing his private eye hat) is called to the home of a steel and aeronautics magnate. The old man is dying, and he knows it. He has no heir. But long ago he fathered a child with a Mexican girlfriend. He wants Harry to find out if his child is alive – if he or she is, they’re in a position to inherit billions.

It’s a pleasure to follow Harry as he does his job. Connelly is especially good at layered characters – people who turn out to be more (or less) than they appear on first glance. There are lots of surprises here, and a plot that snaps together cleanly in the end.

Author Connelly’s politics would appear to be liberal, but his views on various issues are incorporated seamlessly into the story, without hammering the points home (though Harry seems to have had more lesbian partners than statistically likely). But if I disagreed with some passing political riffs, I appreciated the respect with which Vietnam veterans were treated.

Highly recommended. Cautions for language and adult themes.

The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly


“I just don’t know why you can’t have it both ways. You know, give unbridled effort in your defense but be conscientious about your work. Try for the best outcome.”

“The best outcome for who? Your client? Society? Or for yourself? Your responsibility is to your client and the law, Bullocks. That’s it.”

I gave her a long stare before continuing.

“Don’t go growing a conscience on me,” I said. “I’ve been down that road. It doesn’t lead you to anything good.”

I’ve said before that, although I’m a big fan of Michael Connelly, I’m not a big Mickey Haller fan. Mickey, Connelly’s street-smart defense lawyer hero, is just a little shady. His aspirations are mostly monetary, or so he believes – though in the crunch he tends to learn he’s not quite the scoundrel he fancies himself.

I consider it a tribute to author Connelly’s storytelling skill that I found myself generally irritated with Mickey all the way to the end of The Fifth Witness, where a sudden reversal won me over completely.

When the story begins, Mickey has diverted his legal practice to a field currently more lucrative than criminal defense. That’s contesting mortgage foreclosures. Among his new clients, the most annoying is Lisa Trammel, who has turned her personal property fight into a crusade, and has started a protest movement. She’s pushy and entitled, and Mickey doesn’t like her at all.

But when Lisa is arrested for the murder (with a hammer) of a bank officer she’s been blaming for her troubles, she calls on Mickey to defend her. Sure, there’s blood DNA evidence to link her to the crime, but how did five foot three Lisa kill a man well over six feet tall with a hammer blow to the very top of his skull? And who sent thugs to beat Mickey up?

As he works through the evidence, Mickey begins to suspect he may actually be defending an innocent woman – something that troubles him more than an assumption of guilt would.

Very well done. Michael Connelly played on my emotions like a master all the way through.

Cautions for the usual, but nothing major by contemporary standards.

The Black Box, by Michael Connelly

I wonder if the recent popularity surge of Scandinavian detective novels influenced Michael Connelly to add a Scandinavian element to his latest Harry Bosch novel, The Black Box. It doesn’t really matter. The Bosch series continues very strong, and I think the Scandinavians will like it for its own sake.

When Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch, Connelly’s most famous detective, first appeared in a novel, he was dealing with the chaos of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. This story takes us back to that surreal time. There were so many murders that detectives weren’t able to do proper crime scene work. They got shunted from place to place, protected by the National Guard, with time only to take a few pictures and notes before calling the meat wagons and rushing off somewhere else.

One murder scene he visited that night has nagged at Harry ever since. It involved the body of a white woman, who “shouldn’t have been in that neighborhood” at all. In time she was identified as Anneke Jesperson, a Danish freelance reporter and photographer. Twenty years later, now working on the Unsolved Crimes squad, Harry takes the case up again. But he finds that his superiors are not only not enthusiastic about him opening the case, but openly obstructive – it would be bad politics to solve the murder of a white woman on the twentieth anniversary of the riots.

Harry doesn’t care. He plays hardball both with the brass and with his suspects. He’s willing to go without backup onto his enemies’ home ground in order to flush them out. I was a little worried about a somewhat clichéd plot element here, but I thought Connelly resolved it in a believable way.

The Harry Bosch series is one of the best police procedurals going today, and it shows no sign of flagging. Recommended, with cautions for violence, mature themes, and language.

The Drop, by Michael Connelly

The title of this Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, The Drop, refers to a police department acronym for a special procedure for allowing a detective to stay on past mandatory retirement. Since Harry, an old Vietnam veteran, is already past that point, getting a further extension is important to him. His job is his life, or at least it was until his teenage daughter came to live with him.

Bosch felt a brief stirring in his gut. It was a mixture of instinct and knowing that there was an order of things in the world. The truth was revealed to the righteous. He often felt it at the moment things started to tumble together on a case.

When The Drop begins, Harry and his partner, who are on the cold case squad, are assigned to re-investigate a twenty year old rape-murder. DNA from a blood smear found on the body has been matched to a known sex offender. The only problem is that the offender was eight years old at the time the teenage victim was killed. Is it just an evidence mix-up, or something more complicated?

But they’ve hardly started the job before they’re called up by the Chief’s office to handle a current case. A lawyer, the son of Harry’s old nemesis, the political reptile Irvin Irving, has fallen – or jumped – from a balcony in a posh Beverly Hills hotel. It looks like suicide, but there are discrepancies. And Harry is soon following a trail that winds through the treacherous terrain of city and police politics – what ordinary cops call “high jingo.” Games are being played, and somebody is trying to use Harry for their own purposes.

Running through the story are themes of guilt, forgiveness, and redemption. Harry gets involved with a woman who is wracked by guilt and the question of where evil comes from. Harry deals with the same problem in dealing with a sexual predator who was himself a victim, and with several colleagues who betray his trust.

There’s a lot of serious matter in this story, and few answers beyond whodunnit. For mysteries, generally, it’s enough to raise the questions. I read The Drop with great pleasure.

Cautions for language and adult material.

“The Reversal,” by Michael Connelly


I felt what Maggie had tried to describe to me on more than one occasion when we were married. She always called it the burden of proof. Not the legal burden. But the psychic burden of knowing that you stood as representative of all the people. I had always dismissed her explanations as self-serving. The prosecutor was always the overdog. The Man…. I never understood what she was trying to tell me.

Until now.

I still haven’t entirely warmed to Michael Connelly’s “Lincoln Lawyer” character, Mickey Haller, who strikes me as somewhat irresponsible (a useful quality, perhaps, in a criminal defense lawyer).

But The Reversal, “A Lincoln Lawyer” novel, is as much a story of Mickey’s half-brother, police detective Harry Bosch, as it is one of Mickey’s, so I had no problem getting on board. And the story as a whole seemed to me as engaging and sympathetic as Connelly has written in some time.

It begins with Mickey doing something he’s always sworn he’d never do—go to work (on a temporary basis) as a county prosecutor, making and presenting a case against a convicted child murderer. DNA evidence has won the convict a new trial, but the District Attorney’s office still believes they have the right man. The most important element of their case is the eyewitness, the victim’s older sister, who was only a child at the time.

Mickey agrees to do the job—just this once—on the condition that he gets his ex-wife, prosecutor Maggie MacPherson, as his associate. (He wants to improve his relationship with her.) With Harry Bosch as chief investigator, it makes the entire prosecution a family affair.

The narration switches back and forth from Mickey’s point of view (presented in the first person) and Harry’s (in the third person). The alternation makes an interesting counterpoint. Mickey is all about tactics and strategies, intuiting the Defense’s moves on the basis of his own considerable experience on that side of the courtroom. Meanwhile Harry runs down leads and dogs the suspect in his accustomed, obsessive way, his focus always on his duty (or vocation), as an officer of society itself, to see justice done and the evil removed from our midst.

This being fiction, of course, even the best courtroom strategist can’t foresee, or prevent, the big surprise that takes the story’s climax out of the safety of the courtroom and into the perils of a city full of innocent bystanders.

The Reversal is an excellent thriller from a master storyteller. Recommended for adults. Cautions for language and icky stuff.

Suicide Run, by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is not my favorite among Michael Connelly’s continuing characters. That honor goes to Terry McCaleb, whom Connelly killed off a few books back (McCaleb makes a welcome appearance in one of the stories in this book). But I appreciate Harry more than Connelly’s replacement for McCaleb, Micky Haller, the “Lincoln Lawyer.” Not that there’s anything much wrong with Haller. He’s just newer and (to all appearances) less damaged by life than the others. It’s the scars and calluses on the older characters that make them interesting to me.

Suicide Run is a collection of three short stories starring Harry (Hieronymus) Bosch, Los Angeles police detective. Warning: It’s a short collection. Much of the bulk of the book is taken up by a preview of Connelly’s next novel, The Drop. Since I never read such previews (they only frustrate me), I was a little disappointed in that.

But I enjoyed the stories nonetheless. In “Suicide Run,” Bosch investigates the murder of a beautiful Hollywood starlet, disguised as a suicide. In “Cielo Azul,” he goes to visit a killer on death row, in an attempt to persuade him to reveal the burial site of one of his victims. In “One Dollar Jackpot,” he tackles the murder of a famous female poker player, shot to death in her automobile.

The genius of the Harry Bosch stories, in my view (and in all Connelly’s work), is the compassion at their heart. Harry, like a character in a painting by the artist he was named after, lives in a world filled with horrors and apparent irrationality. Yet his personal vocation is to speak for the dead, to do them the last possible service through seeing that their killers pay the price.

For me, the outstanding story here was “Cielo Azul,” a bittersweet tale in which Harry goes on a seemingly hopeless quest to learn one truth before it’s too late. I don’t know what author Connelly believes about God or the afterlife, but he asks the right questions here, and that’s something.

Recommended for adults.