Desert Star | Book Review

Harry Bosch is getting old. To be precise, he is 72 years old in 2022, when the events in Desert Star take place. His motto has always been, “Everybody counts or nobody counts. This is the driving force in his pursuit of justice for victims. But how long can he keep going?

That’s the question I had in mind when I cracked open the latest installment in Michael Connelly’s long-running series of crime novels featuring Bosch. Connelly debuted the character in 1992’s The Black Echo, I discovered the Bosch series in 2015, and I have been a huge fan ever since. (The television show is also very good.)

With Bosch, Connelly has created a Los Angeles-centric universe of characters who interact with one another, such as Mickey Haller (the “Lincoln lawyer” and Bosch’s half-brother) and Renee Ballard (Bosh’s erstwhile partner). As Bosch ages, Connelly is able to shift the focus from him to these other characters. Because fans are already invested in them, they find it—I find it—easy to pick up the new books.

This is especially true as some of the protagonists in my other favorite series age. Jack Reacher is too old to be homeless in America. Walt Longmire—who’s older than Bosch—is too old to be running around the Rez. And Gabriel Allon—who’s contemporary to Bosch—has retired from Mossad. What do you do with these beloved characters?

Connelly has solved that problem by moving Bosch into a secondary position as a supporting character to LAPD Detective Renee Ballard. In Desert Star, she runs the reconstituted Open-Unsolved Unit that tries to close cold cases. With Bosch as her first choice, she has created a volunteer group to sift through cold cases and use DNA or other new developments solve old murders. The team includes another retired (but lazy) LAPD officer, a retired deputy DA, a retired FBI agent, and an investigative genetic genealogist with a penchant for the psychic realm.

Desert Star focuses on two cases. The first is the 1994 murder of Sarah Pearlman, sister of LA City Councilman Jake Pearlman, who has been instrumental in restarting the Open-Unsolved Unit, and who expects his sister’s case to be prioritized.

The second is the Gallagher Family case, the 2013 murder of Dad, Mom, and two kids. Bosch worked the case and identified a suspect, Finbar McShane, but the case went cold long before he retired. It’s the one that got away.

Connelly’s plot is a slow burn, with the major action reserved for near the end of the book. It’s a classic police procedural. The plot twists and turns as new evidence and new insights about old evidence lead readers to the book’s denouement, which hits close to home.

Bosch has often been in perilous, even life-threatening situations, but this is the first time I genuinely worried for him in the years I’ve been reading the series. Is this the end of the line for Harry Bosch? You’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out.

Whether or not it is, however, I’m glad that Connelly had the foresight to introduce Renee Ballard in the Bosch literary universe several years ago. She’ll carry on when Harry can’t. I enjoyed Desert Star, and I’m looking forward to the next novel.

Book Reviewed
Michael Connelly, Desert Star (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2022).

P.S. If you like my recommendation, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

2 thoughts on “Desert Star | Book Review

  1. HI GEORGE; I am a AOG minister and enjoy your articles and blog posts very much! I am interested in your thoughts about good writers such as Michael Connelly and other present day writers and their use of profanity in their novels? Also, how do you think this relates to Christian and Clergy readers and Biblical standards? This is something I struggle with as a lover of good books and writing. I have found as a pastor I have to be very careful what I suggest to other people and even discuss with them about books and reading. It is a shame so many good writers don’t write without writing with profanity. I once saw a interview with Nelson DeMille where he was asked about the use of profanity in his novels and stated that he didn’t write his books using profanity but it was added in by book editors who thought that profanity made the books more realistic. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the subject. Thanks for your writings and book reviews!

    Robert Nolley [email protected]

    Sent from Mail for Windows

    1. Robert:

      Thanks for the comment!

      The murder mysteries I read contain minimal profanity. As a general rule, I think cussing makes the cusser look stupid and think it should be avoided. Most writers know that and use profanity sparingly.

      Regarding biblical standards, I’m not sure that a little cussing in a murder mystery is morally worse than the murder (or violence or crime) itself.


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