Review: Trunk Music by Michael Connelly

 

Trunk MusicThe thing about Michael Connelly’s Bosch series is that they are phenomenally re-readable. First time round you’ll be turning the pages desperately trying to identity the killer. Second time round, you’re able to savour Bosch’s world a little more – bask in mid-nineties Los Angeles, its beauty and its underlying tensions – and marvel at his ability to weave a compelling mystery. As I make my way through the series for a second (and in some cases, third time) I’m truly enjoying pulling the books apart, desperately trying to understand how they work, and why they’re so damn effective.

When Tony Aliso’s body is found crumpled in the trunk of his car, Harry Bosch’s colleagues in the LAPD are quick to declare the murder a case of “trunk music” – that is, a mob hit. Aliso had ties to Las Vegas mob, after all, so it comes as no real surprise that this ishow his life ended. But Bosch – back on the job after mandatory leave – isn’t ready to write off the investigation. So he digs deeper, and deeper – and soon finds himself tangled in a web of police politics, Hollywood film-making, and Vegas gangsters. The mystery is convoluted, but coherent, and Bosch’s reunion with his former flame Eleanor Wish adds important personal stakes.

Trunk Music is comfortably top tier Michael Connelly. Readers seeking innovation or experimentation might be disappointed – – those looking for “genre subversion”, for example (ugh) – – but the fact remains, no other writer has produced better police procedurals than Connelly, and few will write ones as good as Trunk Music.

ISBN: 9781760293376
Format: Paperback  (198mm x 128mm x mm)
Pages: 1
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-May-2016
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Crossing.jpgIn this explosive new mystery, Michael Connelly, the acclaimed author of The Burning Roomand The Black Box, positions Harry Bosch at a crossroad. No longer a preacher of the blue religion, the ex-LAPD detective’s days are now dominated by the restoration of an old Harley-Davidson. Bosch’s mission is over; something else has to fill that void in his life. Easier said than done, of course; his daughter, Maddie, has become increasingly detached as she goes through her adolescent years; his latest relationship is stuttering towards an inevitable conclusion; and it’s not like Harry had a lot of friends outside his day job. The badge meant everything to him – it defined him. Without his badge, without the mission, who is he?

Meanwhile, his half-brother, Mickey Haller – ‘the Lincoln Lawyer’ – continues to serve as a defence attorney; effectively tasked with undermining the hard work undertaken by Bosch’s brethren; dismantling cases that’ve taken weeks, if not months, to formulate. Harry hasn’t ever imagined crossing that line, alternating from prosecutor to defender – but when Haller takes on a case that piques his interest and suggests a killer is still out there, Bosch is hooked. He knows there will be consequences; relationships that are severed. For once that line is crossed, there’s no coming back – especially not when Haller’s case points the finger firmly at a dark underbelly of the Los Angeles Police Department…

The evolution of Harry Bosch continues in The Crossing. Fears of the series stagnating now that Bosch has left the LAPD are misplaced. In fact, his ejection from the department has provided a shot in the arm for the series; not one it needed, for the Bosch novels have been universally consistent in their quality since The Black Echobut this new status-quo has provided Connelly a chance to dig deeper into his protagonist’s psyche. Will Bosch continue working for Haller? Will become a full-fledged private investigator? Or does Connelly have something else in mind? The possibilities are exciting. The end of Bosch’s time with the LAPD doesn’t feel like the end – rather the beginning of a new phase.

The excitement and tension in The Crossing is unrelenting. Nobody explores Los Angeles better than Michael Connelly through the eyes of Harry Bosch. Its core mystery is intriguing, and its finale is pulsating. This is prime Connelly – a book that will keep you awake until you’ve finished the last page, and leave you gasping. Unmissable.

Category: Crime & Mystery
ISBN: 9781760290573
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: November 2015
Page Extent: 400
Format: Paperback

Review: The Closers by Michael Connelly

Closers.jpgAfter three years out of the LAPD – a sabbatical that stemmed two of my favourite Michael Connelly novels, Lost Light and The Narrows – Harry Bosch is back, with a new assignment: the Open-Unsolved Unit, which investigates the cold cases that haunt the LAPD’s files, tainting the legacy of the men who’ve passed through the department’s halls.

This LAPD is a different place from the one Bosch left. A new Police Chief has been introduced to cleanse the department from top to bottom, and he appears to be making headway. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, especially when you’re working decades-old cases, many of which have retained their political sensitivity, and affect still-active upper-echelon policemen – in this case, Bosch’s long-time nemesis, Deputy Chief Irving.

Bosch’s first case back on the job sees him partnered with Kiz Rider, who are given a DNA match connecting a white supremacist to the 1988 murder of Rebecca Veloren, a sixteen-year-old girl. Utilising the murder book concocted by the two detectives in charge all those years ago, Bosch and Rider rebuild the case, delving into ancient history, reconnecting dots and establishing new connections. But Bosch is troubled by Irving’s taunts: that he’s a re-tread, and that he no longer belongs; his time has passed, and he no longer possesses the necessary nous.

Michael Connelly has crafted a Swiss watch of a police procedural; well-machined, precise, and inexorable. The Closers is perfect for new readers looking to sample Connelly’s work, with laser-like focus on the plot and its twists and turns. An exceptional A-Grade detective novel.

ISBN: 9781742371740
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Sep-2009
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Black Box by Michael Connelly

Black BoxA promising beginning devolves into a solid, but unspectacular mystery starring the dogged Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch.

Los Angeles has always played an important role in Michael Connelly’s novels; the Rodney King riots in particular. The Black Box begins in 1992, in the midst of the chaos. Bosch is assigned to an emergency rotation in South-Central, called out to various crime scenes and initiating the barest beginnings of an investigation into each crime of the danger involved operating in the vicinity. One crime in particular has always resonated with Harry, even twenty years later: a murder victim he christened ‘Snow White.’ Called to an alley off Crenshaw Boulevard, a squad of National Guard troops have found the body of a white woman, executed by a bullet to the head, who is eventually identified as Copenhagen journalist Anneke Jespersen.

Twenty years later, Bosch lands the case once again as part of his work with the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit. But the higher-ups don’t want the case solved. The repercussions of doing so – solving a white woman’s murder – are unthinkable for the city’s politicians. Of course, when has Harry Bosch ever allowed bureaucracy to sway him?

The Black Box begins strongly; taut and tightly-plotted, with Connelly deftly elaborating on Bosch’s investigatory moves, and dipping into his personal life; namely his relationship with Hannah Stone, and his daughter’s continued determination to follow her father’s footsteps into law enforcement. In fact, until the novel’s climax, The Black Box is right up there with Connelly’s best. But its conclusion is overblown and exaggerated, relying on unnecessary theatrics that come across a tad cheap; the success of the Bosch novels was always the mystery, not over-the-top action. Still, this one’s enjoyable; it’s just not Connelly’s finest.

ISBN: 9781743317525
Format: Paperback
Pages: 448
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Aug-2013
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Drop by Michael Connelly

TheDrop-high-resMy year-long binge-read through the Harry Bosch novels has underlined the impressiveness of Michael Connelly’s feat. Recently I posted my thoughts on the latest Jack Reacher thriller, Make Me, and lamented Lee Child’s recent inability to maintain the series’ momentum. There’s a staleness to the latter Reacher novels that is non-existent in the Bosch novels. I put this down to Connelly’s willingness to write outside Bosch’s sphere; the Mickey Haller novels allowed him to flex different creative muscles and therefore return to Bosch in rejuvenated spirits. Child, meanwhile, has remained with Reacher; unabated for twenty-one novels.

Of course, the Bosch novels are inherently procedurals, and there is a degree of uniformity with each instalment. But Connelly has a wonderful ability to play within the confines of the genre and keep things fresh. For example, The Drop sees Harry assigned to the Open-Unsolved unit. By having his protagonist working cold cases, Connelly reveals a different side of police work; and in this novel especially, he deftly weaves Harry between a politically-sensitive and current case, and a two-decades-old cold case.

The current case – designated as imperative due to the personnel involved – sees Bosch charged with the investigation into George Irving’s fatal fall from his seventh-story room at the Chateau Marmont. If that name rings a bell, you’re clearly familiar with Harry Bosch continuity; George’s father is city councilman Irvin Irving, the ex-deputy police chief whom featured prominently in Connelly’s early novels as one of Bosch’s primary foes. George’s death looks like suicide, but the councilman is adamant foul play was involved; his son was murdered. And despite their chequered past, Irving knows Bosch will discern the truth; he is familiar with Harry’s mantra: everybody counts, or nobody counts.

The cold case involves DNA evidence from a 1989 rape and murder, which is linked conclusively to Clayton Pell, a known predator with a long history of sex crimes. He’s served time for similar crimes, and he’s an entirely plausible suspect. Cased closed, right? A slam dunk. Only, Pell was just eight years old when the victim was slain. Something is amiss, and Harry won’t stop until he finds the true culprit.

Connelly weaves Bosch between these two cases with great skill, building momentum in both, and leading readers to a stunning climax, underlining once again that Connelly’s the master of the final gut-wrenching twist. The Drop is one of Harry Bosch’s finest hours.

ISBN: 9781925267297
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Mar-2015
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Black EchoMichael Connelly’s 1992 debut – the first Harry Bosch novel in a series that has now spanned 18 installments (including this year’s The Crossing – was an Edgar Award-winner for best first novel. Deservedly, too. The Black Echo is an unabashed police procedural, but is anything but pedestrian, sparked to life by Bosch’s doggedness and dedication to the mission, and Connelly’s appreciation for nailing the facts and capturing the feel of early-nineties Los Angeles. Connelly was working the crime beat for the LA times at the time of publication and his expertise shows on the page; always palatably and for the sake of the narrative; never as an exhibitionist.

Bosch has been relegated to “Hollywood Division” homicide after killing the main suspect in the “Dollmaker” serial-killing case (which Connelly returns to in his third novel, The Concrete Blonde). He’s woken early one morning by a call from his lieutenant – a body has been found in a sewer pipe, and although it looks like death by overdose, Bosch needs to sign off on that initial conclusion. Bosch soon discovers the dead man is a fellow “tunnel rat” he knew in Vietnam named Billy Meadows; and further enquiry reveals his involvement in an audacious bank robbery which is currently being investigated by the FBI. Despite being warned off the case and advised it no longer falls under his purview, Bosch’s insistence leads to his partnering with agent Eleanor Wish. Meanwhile, Bosch is being is being monitored by IAD – not his first rodeo with the department, who’ve long-considered Harry a bent cop – and these two investigations eventually coalesce spectacularly.

The Black Echo twists and turns through its labyrinth plot with a deftness that belies Connelly’s years as a novelist. The author has acknowledged in interviews that his first novel was the one and only time he plotted out his story from beginning to end, but this process doesn’t stilt novel’s flow. The novel’s final twist – Connelly’s specialty – is fittingly unexpected, and reminds us that the world of cops and robbers isn’t black and white; it’s full of greys.

Returning to Michael Connelly’s first novel was a real pleasure. I’ve long-declared him my favourite crime writer, and my primary inspiration. The Black Echo lacks the refinement of his later work – as you’d expect, his writing only improves (and reaches its apex – in my opinion – with Echo Park) but shines nonetheless.

ISBN: 9781742371603
Classification: Crime & mystery
Format: Paperback
Pages: 496
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Sep-2009
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

9 DragonsNINE DRAGONS is the fourteenth Harry Bosch novel – but it was my first. Since then, I’ve read – and re-read, in most cases – the entirety of Michael Connelly’s output. This week, I decided to go back and try to identify why NINE DRAGONS ensnared me. Because there’s no doubt: Connelly is firmly established as one of my favourite writers; and his Bosch series is unrivalled. In my mind, it’s damn near unbeatable.

There is no elongated build-up; no unwieldy setup. NINE DRAGONS begins with Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio Ferras, handed a fresh case; the murder of a convenience store clerk. The victim is Chinese, and before long the detectives discover a Triad connection. Evidently, the store owner paid off a Triad enforcer for ‘protection’ every month; this, in the midst of the economic downturn, meant the store was barely breaking even. The connotation seem clear: the store owner stopped paying, and he was executed as punishment. Of course, this being a Michael Connelly novel, there’s more to the case than what is on the surface. There is no one better at leading readers one way, then shifting momentum and propelling them another. His whodunits have twists like a Mobius band.

The Triad connection means this case is bigger than anything Harry has ever faced. The criminal organization is widespread; a global machine with impossible reach. So thirteen year old Madeline Bosch, who lives with her mother in Hong Kong, is an easy target. Their message to Bosch is clear: keep out of Triad business. But the LA detective’s never been one to play by other people’s rules. He changes the game, and heads to Hong Kong, to take on his daughter’s kidnappers directly…

As far as Bosch novels go, NINE DRAGONS is a solid entry in the series. Few of the books – besides THE OVERLOOK – possess the same thrust; even fewer raise the stakes as significantly. But in throwing Madeline’s life on the line, NINE DRAGONS becomes more thriller than whodunit; by no means a bad thing, but it does make the novel less representative of Connelly’s usual fare.  As an entry into the series, it’s fantastic; its plot allows introductions to recurring characters, including Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) and sets up a new phase in Bosch’s life, with his daughter now playing a more integral role. The final twist – one of Connelly’s trademarks – is jarring, but for all the right reasons. This is an ending that sticks and twists.

3 Stars Good

ISBN: 9781742371542
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 21-Oct-2009
Country of Publication: Australia