NY: Little, Brown, 2007.
This is the 13th novel featuring Harry Bosch in little more than a decade, and while the LAPD homicide expert has evolved somewhat (he actually owns a digital camera now), he really hasn’t changed in the essentials, even if he is getting older and grayer. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Harry’s mission — to speak for the dead, because “everybody counts or nobody counts” — is timeless, but his inability to handle authority well limits his prospects in the department and also seems to guarantee a succession of partners (the last two of whom have been shot while on the job).
Now he’s in the new “Special” unit of the Robbery-Homicide Division, handling cases that are too sensitive, or newsworthy, or simply too likely to become a “hobby,” to be relegated to the local homicide teams in the city’s seventeen divisions. As his first roll-out since his transfer — which he’s been waiting for almost anxiously — he’s called to an execution-like murder scene at a scenic overlook on Mulholland Drive, which quickly ties back to the theft of a large quantity of medical-grade cesium from a hospital where the victim worked. It appears to be a terrorist crime and Harry’s sometime lover, FBI agent Rachel Walling, becomes involved. Only one witness turns up, whom Harry tries to keep under wraps as insurance against losing control of the case to the feds (who really don’t care about the homicide). And then the LAPD’s own Homeland Security department goes off on a tear, which Connelly uses as an example of the present tendency of our government at all levels to cry “Terrorism” to cover up Constitutional and other legal infractions. The whole narrative covers twelve hours (and, true to form, Harry’s newest partner takes a bullet) and the geography, as Bosch notes, is very restricted — but where the whole thing ends up is, nevertheless, a long, long way from where it all began. This isn’t a bad story but it’s ultimately rather lightweight compared to some of Detective Bosch’s earlier outings. There’s not much subtlety, either in the characterizations (especially of the feds) nor in the motivations. And I’m beginning to tire of Agent Walling’s personal psychological instability. Much of this may be a result of the author having originally written the story as a serial in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. It certainly feels like a serial, or an overextended short story. And what in the world was the final fate of Capt. Hadley and his killing of a bystander whose politics he didn’t approve of? After his little Vietnam warning-story, I can’t see Bosch agreeing to cover for him. Perhaps Connelly is becoming too concerned with marketing his work and less concerned with writing it.