Book Review: The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Ever since I started reading Michael Connelly books a few years ago, I’ve always looked forward to the next instalment in the series and especially a new Harry Bosch – a character of whom I’ve grown very fond over the years. The Burning Room is the nineteenth book with Bosch as the protagonist and those who have been following the series know that not only is he past retirement age now but he’s been redeployeThe Burning Room (Harry Bosch, #19)d on a special contract – the appropriately named “DROP” plan, working cold cases.

In this one, Bosch has a new partner, the medal-awarded young officer and public hero, Lucia Soto, who has her own skeletons in the closet and axe to grind with justice.

The story opens with Bosch attending the autopsy of a man who was shot years earlier in a case that was never solved. Bosch and Soto are given the responsibility of trying to track down the shooter. Retrieving old files and looking at a case that other detectives failed to solve, re-interviewing suspects and walking ground that has been well-trod is sensitive at the best of times, but when political figures appear to be involved, the stakes suddenly become much, much higher. As Bosch warns the young Soto, you should never open the door on a burning room…

Woven through this story are the usual departmental politics, the unsupportive hierarchy more worried about meeting budget than catching the right criminals, and Bosch’s personal and professional life. This is given an additional frisson as Bosch tries to pass on good policing to Soto, demonstrating there is a still a time and place for the gum-shoe approach to detective work, the hard, pedantic slog and essential hands-on and foot-work  as opposed to sitting at a desk all day and surfing the web or relying on the phone.

Back on the home front, his daughter is thinking of becoming a cop. At seventeen, she not only does work-experience with a specific arm of the force, but is also slowly developing into an adult and the inevitable distance between parent and child (as the child’s priorities and need for autonomy assert themselves) develops. This is subtly and well handled, the daughter being a minor character in this novel just as Bosch is now becoming (for the time being at least) in hers.

Added to all this is the sense that Bosch is approaching the end of a long and wonderful career. I thoroughly enjoyed this book  – found it difficult to put down – and certainly, regular fans of the series have the reward of knowing Bosch’s back story, delighting in his triumphs and seething when he is unfairly treated. We also understand why he acts in particular ways or says certain things. But new readers (and old) would derive pleasure from the great pacing, good dialogue and the humanity that underpins the central characters and their determination to solve the crime.

I sincerely hope we get to read a great deal more about Bosch and that he has the opportunity to continue to put his formidable experience, knack for solving crimes and sense of social justice to good use for a long time yet.

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Book Review: The Black Box by Michael Connelly

The latest in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly, The Black Box, more than delivers.

While this book is part of a series featuring the wonderfully named detective, Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, and there are rich rewards for readers who have followed the life and adventures of the main character, the beauty of Connelly’s books means that new readers can come to this book with no Bosch baggage and still receive so much pleasure – the type that comes from reading an author who is a master of both his craft and the genre.

Now a member of the cold case squad, Bosch, who has been given an extra five years on a special contract (DROP) so he doesn’t have to retire, finds himself reinvestigating a murder he originally encountered twenty years earlier. Back then, a young and lovely Danish reporter, Annika Jeppersen, was shot dead during the LA riots. Due to the increased crime at the time and the demands placed on the police, Bosch was forced to hand over the investigation to the Riot Crimes Task Force and the case was never solved. It was one that never really left Bosch and when it’s handed back to him two decades later, he determines to uncover the murderer, even at the expense of his reputation and his job.

The “black box” is the name Bosch gives to the one piece of evidence that, like the black box flight recorder in a plane, explains all the other clues, creates a clear context that leads to the murderer and often the motive. Working alone, Bosh is at first unable to piece the evidence together, but when he discovers the all-important “black box” everything changes. Bosch’s instincts that Jepperson’s death wasn’t simply collateral damage from a city out of control, but the result of a deliberate murder, proves right. What Bosch doesn’t expect is that this discovery will lead him to uncover a conspiracy that goes back decades and involves people at the highest levels…

While the novel contains the usual elements of suspense and the inevitable piecing together of the murder puzzle and coming to grips with suspects, what makes the Connelly books terrific is that all of the nuts and bolts of crime writing is interwoven with aspects of Bosch’s private life – the way he struggles to do the right thing by his daughter as a single dad and the growing pains of a new romantic relationship – giving him extra dimensions and humanising him in wonderful ways. Bosch is so ethical and yet, he also doesn’t suffer fools, endearing him to everyone but his superiors and the criminals who often underestimate him.

Connelly has this terrific capacity to make even the predictable (in terms of the investigation) unpredictable and when Bosch makes a few poor choices, his future in terms of career and even his life, keep the reader guessing.

If you enjoy well-written crime and great characters, then make sure you pick up Connelly. I did and my only regret is that he can’t write faster!

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