Review: The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

9781760876012-1I have read all 32 — now 33 with The Night Fire — of Michael Connelly’s crime novels at least twice, and I’m almost certain I’ve read each instalment in the Harry Bosch series on three or four separate occasions. These books are nestled in my bookcase, spines proudly creased, pages yellowed; worn, and loved, and returned to. If one author epitomises precisely what I want from my crime fiction, it’s Connelly: enthralling police procedurals without the outrage pyrotechnics that blight many of his peers.

There has been a notable shift in Connelly’s writing since the premier of the Bosch television series. In the early days, the books focused on a single investigation. Think of Angels Flight, when Bosch investigated the murder of a high profile black lawyer; or City of Bones, when a chance discovery leads Bosch to discover a shallow grave in the Hollywood hills. More recently, Connelly’s novels have handled multiple narrative threads; separate investigations, not always connected, twisting around each other. Think The Wrong Side of Goodbye and Two Kinds of Truth.  These novels read more like a television series; each chapter an episode contributing to an overarching story. One style is not better than the other, necessarily; in fact, I appreciate the evolution and refinement of Connelly’s craft.

The Night Fire is a perfect encapsulation of this ‘new’ brand of Connelly. Once again uniting former LAPD detective Harry Bosch — approaching 70, but who still bleeds blue despite giving up his badge years earlier — and Renee Ballard — an active cop who works midnight shift; the ‘late show’ — this new novel focuses primarily on their dual investigation into the cold case of the unsolved killing of ex-con John Hilton, whose murder book was hidden away in Bosch’s recently-deceased former partner’s study, for reasons unknown, but which we’ll discover. At the same time, Ballard is working her own case: the arson that killed a homeless man inside his tent. And as if Bosch didn’t have enough on his plate, dealing with a medical diagnosis that ties back to 2007’s The Overlook, he finds himself involved in the defence of the client of his half brother, Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller. Because if the defendant on trial isn’t responsible for the murder he’s accused of, there’s still a killer out there, who the police aren’t looking for. a

Connelly’s genius is his ability to render the slow, meticulous, dogged pursuit of murderers absolutely captivating. He is the unrivalled master of the police procedural. The Night Fire is a maze of distinct investigations, and Connelly is the perfect guide. Nothing excites me more in crime-lit than when Bosch has jazz playing on the stereo, he’s poured himself a mug of black coffee, and is about to open a murder book. I hope he’s got a few more cases left in him, but contented knowing Ballard is a more than capable replacement; not just a Bosch facsimile, but a character who lives and breathes in these pages.

ISBN: 9781760876012
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 416
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 21-Oct-2019
Country of Publication: Australia


Review: Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

9781760528553.jpgAn excellent police procedural in its own right, and a definitive novel in the Harry Bosch series. This is crime writing at its very best.

Dark Sacred Night and the last handful of Michael Connelly’s novels —  Two Kinds of Truth, The Late Show, and The Wrong Side of Goodbye were clearly influenced by the superb Bosch television series. Which is not the derisive comment you might think it is; far from it, in fact. As necessitated by the medium, every season of the Bosch TV series merges various plot elements from two or three of Connelly’s books into one cohesive narrative; Bosch might be working more than one case, for example, and these two plots twist around each other like the double helix of a DNA strand. Connelly has adopted this technique with his last few books to great effect, and has ensured the recent Bosch novels, and the first Renée Ballard thriller The Late Show have felt very different to his earlier output. As exemplified by Dark Sacred Night, Connelly’s work is tauter  — leaner and meaner — than it ever has been. And it’s great. It’s not that he’s reinvented his style or storytelling devices; rather, he’s just completely reinvigorated his writing. And it takes a very good writer indeed to modify a formula that’s garnered critical acclaim and landed places on bestseller lists worldwide for so long.

When Connelly introduced Renée Ballard in The Late Show, most readers would’ve assumed it was only a matter of time before she crossed paths with Harry Bosch. Few would’ve thought we’d witness that so soon. When Ballard meets Bosch, late one night during another graveyard shift, he’s rifling through an old filing cabinet, desperate for information on a cold case that’s sunk its teeth into him. Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway who was brutally murdered almost a decade ago, whose mother he met  — as did readers — in Two Kinds of Truth. Ballard is initially suspicious of Bosch, but it quickly becomes clear: they’re both driven by the same desire for justice. So, still not entirely bonded, they agree to assist each other: Bosch on the outside, Ballard on the inside.

Meanwhile, Ballard is repeatedly distracted from the Clayton case by various callouts on her midnight shift. Most of these serve as momentary distractions, offering cool insights and anecdotes into Ballard’s history, and life in the LAPD. Bosch, too, can’t give the case his all: still attached in a part-time capacity to the San Fernadno Police Department, he is ready to serve a warrant on his prime suspect in the murder of veteran gang member Cristobel Vega. But things immediately go south, and Bosch finds himself facing the wrath of the Varrio San Fer 13, one of the oldest and deadliest gangs in the San Fernando Valley.

Dark Sacred Night is Connelly in fine form. It’s very rare when the thirty-second book by an author leaves you desperate for the next one, but Connelly delivers every time. The first Ballard & Bosch novel is  a multilayered and multifaceted mystery, chock-full of moments of heart-pounding suspense, and a conclusion that rocks Bosch’s world to its core. Hours after I’ve put the book down, I’m still recovering from its reverberations. Michael Connelly —  the proven master of the genre continues to astound.

ISBN: 9781760528553
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 29-Oct-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

9781760630775Two Kinds of Truth harnesses the strengths of Michael Connelly’s two longest-running series, uniting Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller in a book that’s a distinctive blend of police procedural and legal thriller, which is as much an addictive page-turner as it is a provoking meditation of the moral ambiguity that permeates society.

Thirty years ago former LAPD Detectives Francis Sheehan and Harry Bosch were certain Preston Borders raped and murdered three young women. He was eventually convicted of killing Danielle Skyler, and given the death penalty. He’s been sitting in San Quentin ever since, waiting for that fateful day. But now it looks like he’ll get out, thanks to an analysis of unexamined evidence from 1988, which has revealed DNA  on Danielle’s pyjama bottoms belonging to Lucas John Olmer, who died in prison, and is unconnected to Borders. Guided by his lawyer, Borders has filed a habeas corpus petition, and in doing so, accused the LAPD — specifically Bosch, since Sheehan is dead — of planting evidence against him.

Now working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department, Bosch knows neither he or Sheehan did anything untoward that lead to Border’s conviction. But the mere hint of corruption would be enough to taint Bosch forever, sullying his reputation, and would force him to surrender his badge, and therefore his mission. So while his half-brother Mickey Haller prepares Bosch’s legal defence, Harry re-opens a case he’d thought long-closed, while also working with his SFPD colleagues to investigate the murder of José Esquivel Sr. and Jr., which thrusts him into undercover work as an addict and potential drug mule.

A little mystery and a lot of mayhem keep the plot boiling, and while the two cases remain unconnected, one influences the other with almost catastrophic consequences. We’ve not seen Bosch this far our of his comfort zone since he travelled to Hong Kong in 9 Dragons on a mission of vengeance. While the mystery in Two Kinds of Truth doesn’t possess the depth and complexity of Bosch’s most memorable cases, the standout scene, which is reserved for when Haller takes the stage in the courtroom, propels the book to Connelly’s usual Gold-Star standard. The Mickey Haller books have always evocatively portrayed the murky machinations of the legal system, and the brief episode here will have readers craving the next book in that series.

Michael Connelly does a masterly job of unravelling dual storylines, once again proving himself a consummate plotter as he steadily complicates an already complex narrative. His mysteries, and the Harry Bosch series, continue to burn bright.

ISBN: 9781760630775
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 25-Oct-2017
Country of Publication: Australia


Review: The Late Show by Michael Connelly

9781760630782Michael Connelly’s last Harry Bosch novel, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, was another in a long line of masterful police procedurals. Make no mistake: Connelly’s work is the standard to which all crime fiction should be held. It would be easy for the author, with his 30th book, to rest on his laurels: another Bosch novel; maybe another Lincoln Lawyer legal thriller. Instead, he’s gone and created a brilliant new protagonist, LAPD detective Renée Ballard, who has worked the night shift ever since her failed sexual harassment claim against Lt. Robert Olivas, her supervisor at the Robbery Homicide Division. And while there are plenty of similarities between Ballard and Bosch — a thirst for justice, and penchant for going rogue, to name just a couple — Renée’s no female carbon copy of the now-retired Harry. She’s fresh and distinct, inhabiting the same world of torment, fear and danger as Bosch, but providing a very different perspective. Please, Mr. Connelly, sir: don’t let The Late Show be Ballard’s first and last appearance.

Ballard works the night shift at the LAPD’s Hollywood Division alongside her partner, Jenkins, accustomed to initiating investigations, but finishing none, as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. When she catches two cases on the same night, she can’t part with either. One is the brutal beating of a prostitute; the other is the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting.  Despite orders from her superiors and her partner to back off, leave it alone, and let the assigned day shift detectives handle both cases, Ballard launches dual unsanctioned investigations, both of which could lead to her losing her badge, or even worse, her life.

The landscape and themes Connelly explores in The Late Show will be familiar to readers who’ve followed Harry Bosch’s exploits since the beginning, but there’s something refreshing about this young, driven detective’s perspective. When we met Harry in The Black Echo, he was already a seasoned detective with a ton of baggage; it’s very cool to see Connelly try his hand at a less experienced, but no less determined investigator. Long-time readers will also notice characters (or their  kin) from previous novels popping up, either as key players or just in the background. It’s easy to forget, we’ve been reading about Harry Bosch since 1992, more than 20 years, and the world’s continuity remains remarkably intact.

As is his hallmark, Michael Connelly wonderfully combines a mass of procedural detail, a speeding, Byzantine plot, and a flawed hero. The Late Show engages from the first page and never lets go, and Renée Ballard is a character I want to be reunited with as soon as possible. Smartly put together, expertly paced and unpredictable. Just great stuff. To use an oft-repeated word when reviewing Connelly’s work: masterful.

ISBN: 9781760630782
ISBN-10: 1760630780
Number Of Pages: 320
Available: 12th July 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Wrong Side of Goodbye Michael Connelly.jpgHarry Bosch’s journey with the LAPD came to a fittingly acrimonious ending in the final pages of The Burning Room a couple of years back. But while his departure made sense from a character perspective, I had my concerns for the future of Michael Connelly’s long-running series. We’ve seen Harry leave the LAPD before (which produced one of my favourites Bosch novels, Lost Light) but the blue religion and department politics play such a key role in Connelly’s work. How could Bosch possibly endure?

We got a partial answer with last year’s The Crossing; a rollicking team-up with the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller. It set up the obvious question: who is Harry Bosch without the badge? And how can he carry on his mission without it? Because working for Haller wasn’t sustainable; not in the long-term. The Wrong Side of Goodbye provides all the answers we need, and sets the series up for the foreseeable future. Bosch’s LAPD years are over, but the character’s best years might still be ahead of him.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye follows two distinct investigations, which unravel around each other but never intersect. One involves mega-wealthy industrialist Whitney Vance, who hires Bosch as a private investigator to locate a potential heir. His other case involves a serial-rapist dubbed the Screen Cutter, which Bosch is working as a part-time reservist for the San Fernando Police Department. Although it’s an unpaid position, it allows Harry the chance to once again wield a badge and carry on his mission, which is all the payment he needs.

The novel delves into Bosch’s Vietnam years, and his early years in an LAPD uniform. While Connelly has touched on these background details in the past, it’s never been to this extent, and he leaves a ton left over to excavate in future instalments. I always wondered whether Connelly might produce a novel set in the Vietnam or just after, focused entirely on Bosch’s war years or his early years with the LAPD; The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a far more nuanced approach, and I hope we see more information drip-fed to us in future books.

Michael Connelly’s latest is another masterpiece of crime fiction. Some authors get to a point where you run out of superlatives for their fiction; Mr Connelly reached that point long ago. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is the standard to which police procedurals should be held. No doubt the author will raise the bar even higher with his next release.

ISBN: 9781760293833
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Nov-2016
Country of Publication: Australia

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