Monday, November 28, 2011

The Drop Reveals Fatherhood's Effect on Harry Bosch

Have you heard? Harry Bosch is back and better than ever. Sure, Mickey Haller got a lot of attention when he was played on the big screen by Matthew McConaughey earlier this year, but if you've read Michael Connelly, you know that Harry's the real star. In recent years, Connelly has given both characters almost equal time, roughly publishing a new Haller novel for every Bosch novel that releases. But the canon of Bosch novels goes back almost two decades and is made up of fifteen novels, while Haller is featured in a somewhat-less-significant four.

If you are a reader of any series, you know that series often get off-track after fourteen or fifteen books (sometimes earlier). Most of my favorite series novelists have delivered a rough "where-did-that-come-from?" novel or two. However, they often recover in later books, and that's exactly what Connelly has done with Harry Bosch in his latest novel, The Drop.

 Now don't get me wrong. Connelly writes well most of the time. The only book that didn't wholly belong in his Harry Bosch series was 2009's 9 Dragons, which took Harry to Hong Kong and to the worst disaster of his personal life -- and believe me, he's no expert in that arena. Harry is at his element in work situations, especially solving murders. It's what he's done for most of his professional life, and he's darn good at it. Personal interactions are less comfortable for him, but that's precisely what Connelly brings to the forefront in The Drop.

After the aforementioned disaster in Hong Kong (and I'm calling it that because it was disastrous both to Harry and to 9 Dragons), Harry gains sole custody of his daughter. Never being a family man, her entrance into his home is cause for a huge upheaval in Harry's life. Everything he does, from the way he interacts in his home to the way he conducts his police business, is forced to change as a result of the young girl now living in his Hollywood Hills house. In The Drop, Harry has had some time to adjust to these changes, and he has become a devoted father.

Harry is working cold cases, when he suddenly receives a live case, by order of the chief of police. Harry's longtime political enemy, former policeman and current councilman Irvin Irving, requests that Harry be brought in to investigate his son's death. Harry is wary from the get-go, as he sees no reason for Irving's requesting him. Connelly effortlessly weaves this main storyline into a cold case investigation involving a sex offender living in a group home, as well as into the ongoing story of Harry's relationship with his daughter.

I earmarked several pages of The Drop as I was reading so that I could return to lines I felt were especially revealing of Harry Bosch's character. Here's a smattering of what I saved for later:

On his reluctance to go digital: "The world may have gone digital but Harry Bosch had not gone along with it. He had become proficient with a cell phone and a laptop computer. He listened to music on an iPod and every now and then read the newspaper on his daughter's iPad. But when it came to a murder book he was still, and always would be, a plastic and paper man. He was a dinosaur. . . . Bosch was a man who kept traditions, especially when he believed those traditions helped catch killers." (127) 
On his relationship with former partner Kiz Rider: "Rider was black and had grown up in South L.A. But Bosch was speaking to her cop to cop. . . . They had been partners and had operated as a team under extreme pressures. Rider knew Bosch as well as anyone could. They were brother and sister and there was no holdback between them." (158) 
On changes to his life because of fatherhood: "Bosch held the bottle up by its neck. He had bought it from the restaurant because he knew he had nothing at home. He had stopped drinking at home since Madeline had started living with him." (186) 
On changes in attitude fatherhood has caused: "Bosch watched [Chad] walk back toward his family. He felt sorry for the kid. He seemed to be walking back to a life of demands and expectations that he had no part in conjuring." (202) 
On sharing things with his daughter: "She seemed puzzled by his decision to share this piece of advice with her." (246)

In short, Harry Bosch is both exactly the same and completely different with the advent of Madeline in his life. He goes at cases with the determination he has always had; however, the method he uses and his feelings about the cases are often changed. In some ways, his mind is elsewhere as he works; in others, he has never been so dedicated to making the world a better, safer place -- precisely because it's the world his daughter lives in.

Michael Connelly is the author of more than twenty novels, including fifteen Harry Bosch series novels, four Mickey Haller series novels, two Jack McEvoy series novels, and three standalone novels (which nevertheless seem to have ties to Connelly's other "worlds").

Connelly's website has some not-to-miss gems for fans. Back in 2003 while on book tour, he gave away jazz compilation CDs featuring songs that had been mentioned by Harry Bosch in previous novels. Bosch is a jazz connoisseur of sorts, and although the CD is no longer available, Connelly has provided the track listing as well as the quotes from his novels where each song is mentioned. You can read all about it here, then download to your hearts content via iTunes. Also, Connelly has a list of every song or jazz artist ever mentioned in one of his novels available here, both by artist and by book.

For my reviews of Connelly's previous novels, click here. If you'd like to see Michael Connelly talk about The Drop, click here. To read an excerpt of the novel, click here.

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