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 redeployed 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.