Dark Sacred Night | Book Review


Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night picks up where his two previous novels, The Late Show and Two Kinds of Truth, left off. Renée Ballard continues to work the late shift for Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division. Harry Bosch continues to work cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department.

They meet by happenstance when Ballard finds Bosch snooping through Hollywood’s case files in search of information about the murder of Daisy Clayton, whose mother, Elizabeth, Bosch rescued at the end of Two Kinds of Truth. They strike a bargain and investigate the case together. Along the way, Ballard and Bosch investigate other cases on the side, but it’s the Daisy Clayton murder that drives the plot forward.

As per usual with Connelly’s novels, this one is a page-turner. I started reading it after dinner and finished it before I went to bed. It held my interest throughout. Even the side plots kept my interest. What I love about Connelly’s novels is the way he moves the plot forward by means of good detective work, rather than an investigator’s flashes of insight. You see Ballard and Bosch working the evidence, piecing the story together bit by bit. This approach keeps you hooked, because you want to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Additionally, I love the fact that unlike other serial novelists that I love to read—I’m looking at you, Lee Child and Craig Johnson—Michael Connelly is smart enough to realize that Bosch is getting older and simply can’t sustain the pace, the intensity, or the beatings he endured (or gave out) in previous novels. With this novel, Connelly seems to be moving his focus toward Ballard and transitioning Bosch into a lesser role. That’s great, as far as I’m concerned, both because Ballard is an intriguing character and because I still enjoy Bosch.

I’m not giving Dark Sacred Night a five-star review, however. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend reading it, but it’s not at the top of Connelly heap. I have two reasons for this: First, the side cases. One of the side cases is designed solely to introduce a character. Ballard’s side cases (an accidental death, an art theft, and a gruesome murder) are solved too perfunctorily. Bosch’s main side case is more interesting, but it’s difficult to tell whether how it ends is designed to set up a transition in Bosch’s life or to introduce a problem for a future novel. Second, a moment of intimacy between Bosch and another character seems way out of character for him. You’ll know what I mean when you read the novel.

Despite this, I’m happy with Dark Sacred Night, and I look forward to whatever Connelly cooks up next year. My guess is that Renée Ballard will play the leading role and Harry Bosch a supporting one. And that’s okay with me. They’re both great characters.

Book Reviewed
Michael Connelly, Dark Sacred Night: A Ballard and Bosch Novel (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Helpful” on my Amazon.com review page.

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Two Kinds of Truth | Book Review


Two Kinds of Truth begins with the interruption of an interruption of an investigation. Retired from the LAPD, Harry Bosch is volunteering with the San Fernando police as a cold-case investigator. While working a 15-year-old unsolved mission person case, he is summoned to a meeting with an assistant district attorney as well as two LAPD detectives, one of whom is his former partner, Lucia Soto. They inform him that DNA evidence has reopened a homicide case he solved thirty years prior, suggesting that his investigation of it was tainted. In the middle of that meeting, he is summoned to the scene of a double homicide at a local pharmacy.

Who killed the two pharmacists? Did Bosch put the wrong man in jail? And what happened to the missing person? Those are the questions Harry Bosch sets out to answer in Michael Connelly’s twenty-second novel featuring him.

As always, Connelly has written a page turner. I finished it in two sittings. But I noticed that I wasn’t as excited about this novel as I was about his July 2017 book, The Late Show, which introduced LAPD detective Renée Ballard. I’m hoping—expecting—a second novel about her sometime next year. (Read my review of The Late Show here.)

Now, don’t get me wrong! If you like Harry Bosch, read Two Kinds of Truth. But now that Bosch is 67 years old, his career—even as a volunteer investigator—feels like it’s winding down. My guess is that Connelly has one more book planned for Bosch, one that solves a fourth mystery mentioned in this book, the brutal murder of a teenage girl. I look forward to that book, but I won’t be too sad if it’s Connelly’s last Bosch novel. He’s had a great run.

 

Book Reviewed
Michael Connelly, Two Kinds of Truth (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

The Late Show | Book Review


When it comes to murder mysteries, Michael Connelly is my go-to author. If he writes it, I read it. So when I received notice that he was beginning a new series, starting with The Late Show, I pre-ordered the book months in advance and read it in a day once it arrived.

The Late Show introduces LAPD Detective Renée Ballard. Her star was rising in the Robbery Homicide Division (RHD) until a conflict with a superior officer got her busted down to working the night shift — the eponymous “late show” — in Hollywood. She used to investigate cases from beginning to end. Now, she rolls up on a night crimes and starts the paperwork, turning over the entire case to the day shift.

But when two victims — one a prostitute who (barely) survives a vicious beating and the other a waitress killed in a mass shooting event — cross her path the same night, she decides it’s time to follow the cases all the way through. It’s a high stakes gamble professionally, and it exposes her to grave dangers personally, but it’s a gamble she willingly takes.

Connelly is releasing his twentieth Harry Bosch novel, Two Kinds of Truth, this October. With Harry having reached retirement age, the Bosch Universe needs a fresh face. Renée Ballard is it, and if The Late Show is any indication, her stories are going to be very, very good.

 

Book Reviewed:
Michael Connelly, The Late Show (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘The Wrong Side of Goodbye’ by Michael Connelly


Michael Connelly, The Wrong Side of Goodbye: A Bosch Novel (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016).

Harry Bosch is back in this just-released novel by Michael Connelly, with an assist from his half-brother Mickey Haller. This time Bosch is a private investigator, as well as an unpaid reserve officer in the San Fernando Police Department. The Wrong Side of Goodbye finds him solving two cases, a serial rapist case for the SFPD and one for a reclusive billionaire seeking a long-lost heir from the wrong side of the tracks.

I pre-ordered this novel in March, got it Tuesday, and read straight through it. The action is not as high-octane as in some of Connelly’s other novels, but it’s a page-turner nonetheless. There’s nothing quite like being grabbed by a plot twist you didn’t see coming.

What I love about Connelly’s novels, especially the Bosch series, are the backstories: Harry’s, obviously, but also Los Angeles’. All of them treat the city itself as a character in the story.

I recommend this book. Heck, I recommend all of Connelly’s novels. They’re police procedurals at their finest.

As soon as Amazon posts Connelly’s next book, I’m preordering it too. The wait is worth it.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘City of Bones’ by Michael Connelly


City-of-bonesMichael Connelly, City of Bones (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2002). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

City of Bones is the eighth installment in Michael Connelly’s series of novels featuring Los Angeles homicide detective Harry Bosch. It opens on New Years Day, when Bosch is called to a home in Laurel Canyon. A dog has found a bone, and its owner, a medical doctor, is certain that it’s human. Bosch begins to investigate and unearths the majority of a skeleton. Forensic examination reveals that the body belonged to a young male who had suffered physical abuse throughout his short life.

Within days, Bosch knows the name of the victim, Arthur Delacroix, and the year of his murder, 1980. But who killed him, and why? Connelly leads readers through Bosch’s 13-day investigation with storytelling skill, leading us down investigative rabbit trails, only to corner the killer in the last pages of the book. In addition to the identity of the killer, those 13 days uncover secrets that destroy lives and families and threaten to end Bosch’s career.

I was familiar with the plot of City of Bones before reading it. This book, along with Concrete Blonde, is the textual basis of the first season of Amazon’s Bosch series. The TV series took quite a few liberties with Concrete Blonde, but it hewed closely to the narrative of City of Bones, with a few, important exceptions. Still, it is a testament to Connelly’s storytelling skill that he captured my attention through the book despite the fact that I knew who the killer was all along.

I’ve reviewed a number of books in Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, together with books in his Mickey Halley and Terry McCaleb series. With one exception, I think each of them is well crafted and engaging. As a guy who likes to read mystery series featuring a lead character and returning cast of characters, I thoroughly enjoy Michael Connelly’s books and recommend them to people with similar tastes to mine.

Read the books in order, though. Each mystery is self-contained, but the character arc of Harry Bosch is worth making the time and effort to start from The Black Echo and work your way forward.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

 

 

Review of ‘A Darkness More Than Night’ by Michael Connelly


A-Darkness-More-Than_nightMichael Connelly, A Darkness More Than Night (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

So wrote Friedrich Nietzsch in Beyond Good and Evil, a statement which poses the central question in Michael Connelly’s A Darkness More Than Night. In the course of conducting an unofficial investigation into a murder, former FBI profiler Terry McCaleb comes to believe that LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch is the doer. Evidence suggests Bosch had the means and opportunity, while Nietzsche’s observation supplies the motive.

Here’s the basic problem, though. From the outset of the novel, we know that Bosch has been set up. Not because Connelly suggests as much early on, but simply because with six Bosch novels under our belts, we know that he would not commit this kind of murder. The abyss has not yet gazed into him with that level of intensity.

And that presents Connelly with a major problem. Readers approach fiction with a willing suspension of belief. Writers must provide them with ample reasons to keep willing it. When you’re suggesting that the hero of a popular mystery series has done something that readers know he couldn’t have done—and therefore didn’t do—you’re pushing that willing suspension to the breaking point.

Connelly is an excellent writer. If anyone could create a plausible story about his hero’s descent into vigilantism, it would be Michael Connelly. Unfortunately, in my opinion, he’s failed to do so.

I say that with regret. I enjoy Connelly’s novels immensely. Blood Work, the first McCaleb novel, was excellent, and I look forward to The Narrows. I have written 5-star reviews of the first six installments in the Bosch series, and I will continue reading the remaining fourteen books in the series.

Even so, this novel was a disappointment. A necessary link in the chain of Connelly’s Bosch-McCaleb-Haller universe, but a disappointment nonetheless.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘Angels Flight’ by Michael Connelly


Angels-FlightMichael Connelly, Angels Flight: A Harry Bosch Novel (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1999). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

When a prominent African-American criminal defense attorney is murdered in downtown Los Angeles, Harry Bosch get assigned the case. Unfortunately, the primary suspects are elite detectives in the city’s Robbery Homicide Division. The case is a political loser. If he arrests a cop, he loses the respect of his fellow officers. If he doesn’t arrest a cop, the city will erupt in a riot.

Oh, and Bosch’s year-old marriage is falling apart.

Angels Flight is Michael Connelly’s sixth Harry Bosch novels, and like the previous ones, I couldn’t put it down. Connelly writes a tight, well-paced whodunit. The twists and turns of the investigation keep your eyes glued to the page even as your empathy for the investigator grows because of his personal crisis. You want Bosch to solve the crime and save his marriage. But can he really do both?

Connelly has his pulse on the post-Rodney King antipathy between Los Angeles’ black residents and the LAPD. This lends verisimilitude to the novel’s portrait of rogue police officers, race hustlers, and bureaucratic fixers. In the end, everyone gets what they want, though not in the way they expected. Angels Flight is a great read, probably the best of the first six installments in Connelly’s twenty-novel Bosch series.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.