The new Michael Connelly book The Black Box is just excellent. I discovered his crime novels, mostly featuring LAPD detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, about 9 years ago, snaffled up the backlist and have read each book avidly as they come out. You don’t have to read them in publication order but it adds greatly to the whole mythos to do so.
Michael Connelly was a police reporter for the Los Angeles Times before turning to fiction full-time. His knowledge and experience of both the city and the police department that protects, serves and occasionally lets it down, is unrivalled. Like the best writing in any genre, these novels leap the barriers of their official designation, in this case crime/thriller – they are about so much more than whodunnit: politics, both municipal and racial, history and its long reach into the present, relationships with colleagues, family and friends, jazz, loyalty, betrayal and the effects of wrong-doing on police, victims perpetrators and all their families. In the background, humming along behind the action and dialogue is Los Angeles, magnificent, tawdry, beautiful, cunning, scary and fascinating – more than Harry’s name links him to the painter of The Garden of Earthly Delights…..
In this outing, Harry Bosch links the bullet from a recent crime to a file from 1992, the killing of a young female photographer during the L.A. riots. Harry originally investigated the murder, but it was then handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force and never solved. Now Bosch’s ballistics match indicates that her death was not random violence, but something more personal, and connected to a deeper intrigue. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the ‘black box’, the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together.At the same time Bosch is having to deal with the fallout from his last case when he was inadvertently drawn into the politics or ‘high jingo’ of the police department and solo-parenting his now 16-year-old daughter.
I really found the descriptions of the L.A. riots in 1992 quite something, the way that the veneer of civilisation cracked and nobody did anything to try to stop it. I thought the plot was clever, just tangled enough but not ridiculous. Harry is more Harry than ever: gruff, honest, thoughtful, fearless, impulsive and committed to ‘the mission’: everybody counts or nobody counts.
Have a look at this video of Michael Connelly driving around the area of south L.A the book is set in, and explaining his inspiration – as a police reporter at the time of the riots he knows what he is taking about :