In Michael Connelly’s “Desert Star,” Renee Ballard has revived the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit thanks to her benefactor on the city council, Jake Pearlman, and calls Harry Bosch out of retirement to work cold cases alongside a team of volunteers.
Bosch left the department acrimoniously, but the chance to use the LAPD’s resources to work his ‘white whale’ is too appealing an opportunity to turn down. Ballard is happy for Bosch to pursue his cold case obsession involving the brutal slaying of an entire family, and their burial in the desert; but her unit needs results to stay alive. Cases need to be closed, one in particular, which has a personal connection to Pearlman: the 1994 murder of his 16-year-old sister.
“Desert Star” is as complex a police procedural as you could expect from Connelly, who continues to be unsurpassed among the legion of writers operating in his field. Like Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, you worry about Bosch being shoe-horned into plots for the sake of extending the series; but the thing about Harry is that, badge or no badge, ‘everybody counts, or nobody counts,’ and he lives for that mission. Bosch wrestling with his mortality and morality is riveting; and that’s taking nothing away from Ballard, who remains a distinct protagonist, whose camaraderie with Harry is certain to influence her own crusade in the short and long term.
Connelly’s better than ever: his prose is honed and precise; his plotting tight and seamless; his characters increasingly rich with each addition to his oeuvre.