Review: The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

Concrete BlondeThe third Harry Bosch novel is one of the series’ best, with the LAPD detective facing trial for the wrongful killing of Norman Church; the man Bosch had pegged as the notorious serial killer, ‘The Dollmaker.’ Bosch maintains he gunned down the right man, and is adamant he had no other choice but to squeeze the trigger –it was kill or be killed – but just as the trial begins he receives a taunting message eerily reminiscent of the notes the Dollmaker teased police with years ago. Following the message’s instructions, Bosch locates a body – ‘the concrete blonde’ – who has seemingly been murdered by the Dollmaker. Did Bosch take an innocent man’s life? Is the Dollmaker still out there, preying on unsuspecting women? Or is this the work of a copycat?

THE CONCRETE BLONDE is a hard-edged mystery, delving deep into the dirty world of the pornography industry and the devious intentions of a cold-blooded killer. Connelly discloses the complicated mentalities of police detectives, underlining how exposure to the bleakest aspects of humanity can impact our protectors. In terms of plotting and raw pace, this is Connelly performing at his peak. The sheer number of twists and turns in the narrative is stunning: the reader is constantly wrong-footed. The true identity of the new killer is revealed in a pulse-pounding finale: one of Connelly’s most satisfying conclusions. The parallel storyline involving Bosch’s trial is equally captivating, and used here as a clever device to reveal much of the protagonist’s backstory. In that respect, THE CONCRETE BLONDE serves as a wonderful introduction to Harry Bosch.

Only with hindsight do we realise the extent to which Connelly has refined his craft in subsequent novels. Much of the novel is dedicated to Bosch’s relationship, and his struggle to cope with the demands involved. It’s a little heavy-handed at times, and repetitive, but fundamental to understanding the complex psyche of the lead detective.  This is a man wholly dedicated to his mission: he will allow nothing to stand in his way.

With an abundance of smarts and thrills, THE CONCRETE BLONDE is one of Connelly’s best, and is perhaps the novel that underlined the talent of a writer who we now recognize as one of the greatest crime writers of all time.

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