Monday, July 27, 2009

Walking the Crime Beat

I'm still in the midst of Harry Bosch, Rachel Walling, and Michael Connelly's motley crew of characters. While reading his Harry Bosch series, I have enjoyed learning about the culture of Los Angeles. No, not just Hollywood and the stars on the sidewalks (although that, too), but the real Los Angeles. Bob's Doughnuts from the Farmer's Market. The view from Mulholland Drive. The woods behind the Hollywood Bowl.

However, in both The Poet (1996) and A Darkness More Than Night (2001), I got a little bit of that world mixed in with new worlds created by Connelly. The Poet is a Harry Bosch-less novel featuring new characters Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling. McEvoy is a newspaper reporter who writes only about murders. He is, one could say, the perfect foil to Bosch's hardboiled detective. McEvoy is the person who lurks in the corners at the courthouse, waiting for policemen like Bosch to step out and into their journalistic spiderweb. McEvoy has his sources, though. Most of all, his brother who is a policeman himself. McEvoy lives in the Denver area, a departure for Connelly and his thus far constant California setting.

In The Poet, McEvoy has lost his brother Sean to an alleged suicide. McEvoy knows there is a darkness to policework that causes investigators to sometimes lose sight of what is important and become hopeless. However, he doesn't believe his brother succumbed to this void. McEvoy goes on a mission to find his brother's killer -- if, in fact, it was someone other than his brother himself. Along the way he involves the FBI and the enchanting Rachel Walling enters Connelly's literature universe. Walling is tough, and she usually gets her guy. Together, McEvoy and Walling form a team that seeks only the truth. The Poet is a haunting novel. Even Stephen King thinks so -- in a reprint King writes an introduction which warns the reader that he wanted for more lights during the nights he stayed up reading the novel. King lauds it as a perfect mystery that both thrills and chills. Connelly doesn't disappoint in his most compelling work to date.

Connelly returns his readers to Bosch's world in A Darkness More Than Night, but rather than making Harry the main character, he gives Terry McCaleb (of Blood Work (1998) fame) that honor. The retired McCaleb is brought in as a consultant on a case which quickly leads him to his old colleague Harry Bosch. As Jack McEvoy joins them and squeezes all parties for his next lead, Bosch runs into danger and McCaleb is the only one who can clear him. The problem? McCaleb isn't sure Bosch is clean. He knows what can happen to a detective after too many years on the job, and Bosch's twenty plus years just might be long enough to lose a little bit of himself. It is a fast-paced novel which ties together three of Connelly's best-crafted characters.

Connelly returns to a strictly Harry Bosch storyline in City of Bones (2002). The novel is dark, full of serious issues and emotions that run deep. The reader learns about child abuse in all its dark secrets, the terrors of the Vietnam War tunnels, and the hard lessons learned from walking too close to the line between danger and safety. Bosch, never a happy man, is tortured throughout the novel in dangerous ways. Connelly provides no relief for Harry in this brutal novel that examines new pieces of Bosch's past and threatens his future.

I'm currently going backwards in time and reading Connelly's thus-far stand-alone novel Void Moon (2000), which features the new character Cassie Black. I'm only on page 17, so I can't make a judgement. However, I will say that so far Connelly has taken me into a casino where some type of crime takes place, and then into the head of Cassie -- and it's (no surprise!) a dark one. So far Ms. Black is pretending to be someone she is not as she views a home for sale during an open house. The twist? She seems to know a bit too much about the family who lives there and to be a bit too interested in the young daughter. At the moment the realtor is catching her in the act as she peruses the artwork hung on the girl's easel. I can't wait for pages 18 through 448!

Below, I share with you a brief statement from Michael Connelly regarding one of my next Harry Bosch reads, The Narrows (2004):

Michael Connelly/ The Narrows
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