Sometimes, I think I’ve forgotten how to read. In reality, though, what I’ve forgotten is how to finish reading.
Especially these days, when it seems that starting a book is easier than finishing one. A well-informed friend says the inability to focus–always a struggle around here–is directly related to one’s level of stress. Lord knows there’s plenty of that.
What hasn’t been working is my current approach of just starting a new book in the hope that something will click and spur me along. The list of books in various stages of being read is now half again as long as the list of books to keep an eye out for. That’s not a healthy situation. The one glimmer of hope is that I actually finished a couple of things.
That brings us to the story at hand, another procedural starring Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch of the LAPD. I’ve written about Connelly’s books before and this one is typical, so typical, in fact, that I kept thinking I must have already read it. And though the crime was familiar enough for me to know whodunit about two-fifths of the way along, the details weren’t. Mrs. AHC swears she recalls me reading it, so maybe I should take her word for it.
We begin this adventure as Harry returns to the job after a 3-year retirement. These series all present the same problem to me: continuity. The authors, like show runners, create often elaborate story arcs and backstories over the course of the series. If you read them in the order they’re published you’re always up-to-speed. If, though, you read them in no particular order, as I tend to do, you either know things that clearly haven’t happened yet or are blissfully unaware of other events. It can feel a bit disorienting.
Take Bosch’s retirement. I think I remember it, but maybe I think that because of how it’s presented here. Since Bosch is a member in good standing of the integrity-matters-and-everything-else-is-BS crime-fighters union, there’s a good chance it wasn’t a voluntary separation and that department brass playing politics were to blame. So there’s a whole thread in this tale about a deputy chief nearing 40-years on the force who’s about as reptilian a political type as you’ll ever want to meet.
There’s also a new chief in town. Connelly tries to keep his version of Los Angeles recognizable and so this new commander is obviously William Bratton, formerly of New York and Boston. Though he holds a political job, he’s more aligned with Harry than his predecessor and deputies. He is, in fact, responsible for Bosch’s return prodded, no doubt, by a detective posted as an analyst to his office, Kizmin Rider, Harry’s once and once-again partner. Together they are joining the open-unsolved case squadron, a recently created unit dedicated to clearing out the backlog of such cases.
The case Bosch and Rider sink their teeth into is nearly twenty years old. A DNA hit has finally identified a suspect in the unexplained and unexplainable murder of a teenager, Rebecca Verloren, who was taken from her home, up the mountainside in back and shot. The victim’s parents are separated; the mother maintiang a shrine to her dead daughter as she runs an eBay business selling second-hand junk and the father, missing, presumed to be on skid row and no longer the successful chef and restaurant owner. Becky’s friends are themselves now in their late 30s.
It is always my policy to never give away too much when writing about books like this since the thrill of the chase is part of the fun. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are dead ends and plot twists, without them there is no crime fiction. Nor should the timeline ever be lost sight of. From Harry’s first day back to crime solved and most every loose end tied up it takes a total, if I counted right, of eight days.
That’s probably some sort of cold case record, as is the Macbeth-like scattering of fresh corpses resulting from the investigation. Like another crime-fighting Harry, Bosch can be a little single-minded in tracking down the killer he’s after. That’s not a complaint. Fiction, maybe especially commercial fiction, entertains us by taking us someplace else. It might be the tenor of the times, but the attraction of a character committed to doing the right thing and accepting, maybe even grasping for, blame when things go wrong can’t easily be dismissed.
In the end, as the form demands, everything works out, more neatly perhaps than real-life would but not nearly as neatly as if the tale were created in Hollywood. In a lot of ways Los Angeles itself is really Connelly’s subject. I don’t mean that in any sociological sense but more as a way to illustrate the totality–good, bad and ugly–of a place he clearly loves.
Too often, the honors accrue to writers quick to dismiss and diminish their own particular Gopher Prairie. Native New Yorkers, raised as we are to know that ours is the only city that matters and that to boast of it would be unseemly piling-on, have a hard time grasping the virtues of hometown boostership. And so we drive the dynamic of dismissal.
Maybe we should be a bit more like Connelly, Bosch and the city they live in and love.