12 Jan 2013

The Black Box: Connelly at his very best

I believe that have written several times here already about the work of Michael Connelly, who has to be one of the very best crime writers currently working. I have just finished his latest published book, entitled The Black Box, and I consider it to be one of his best ever and certainly top of my favourites list of those that have Detective Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch as the hero.

Michael Connelly and one of the covers of his latest Harry Bosch story

Of course I will not tell the story of this book here, and of course I recommend it strongly to anyone who enjoys the genre. But there are some things to be said about this book that may speak more to those who have already read some of Connelly's 30-strong opus, which is mostly fictional and, as far as I know, entirely crime-based. 

On the credibility side is is to be noted that Connelly has a background as a crime reporting journalist in Los Angeles. He has used for many years now, and in the majority of his novels, a recurrent character (people call them "heros", but I don't like that word) known as Harry Bosch, but whose real first name is Heironymous (yes, like the painter).

Inevitably, the darkness of the painter Bosch's universe has a clear connection with the murky world and sinister scenes that a murder investigator like Detective Bosch has to deal with, in and around comtemporary California. But Harry Bosch, although often haunted, is not all about darkness.

Aspects of this complex character's life emerge gradually as one reads, in the many novels that revolve around him, through the stages of Bosch's professional life as a cop, then as a private eye, before he goes back into the police force. His latest phase is that of a "cold case" investigator, re-opening unsolved cases years after the crimes were perpetrated, with the help of current forensic techniques to obtain evidence that will help solve them and provide some form of belated justice to the victims of the crimes. Because Bosch clearly deals with nemesis. The ending sentences of The Black Box show this very clearly. Bosch is talking to the brother of the victim of a murder that dates back 20 years, having taken place during the riots that tore up part of Los Angeles in 1992. A murder which had nothing to do with this violent reation to the acquittal of the police beaters of Rodney King, but everything to do with the arrogance and cynicism of a bunch of former soldiers in the first Gulf war. In these final sentences, Bosch is talking over the telephone to the brother of the murdered woman in Denmark. The brother talks first:

"I have waited twenty years for this phone call...and all this time I thought it would go away. I knew I would always be sad for my sister. But I thought the other would go way."
"What is the other, Henrik?" Though he knew the answer.
"Anger...I am still angry, Detective Bosch."
Bosch nodded. He looked down at his desk, at the photos of all the victims under the glass top. Cases and faces. His eyes moved from the photo of Anneke Jespersen to some of the others. The ones he had not yet spoken for.
"So am I, Henrik", he said. "So am I".

Nemesis, Bosch is motivated by nemesis. At times, this involves his dark side, but also his push for a form of justice as much as his will for revenge, as indeed the story of the Black Box reveals, and at times the divider can be narrow. Connelly not only masters the plot and the supense, he also seems tp show, by small glimpses, parts of himself as well as the tender side to his Bosch character. Harry loves his daughter who now lives with him and says she wants to become part of the police force. But she also has her classic adolescent difficulties with her parent (or the other way around). Bosch is a jazz fan with a major soft spot for Art Pepper. And so on. Nothing is simple, but the plot goes on.

You should read Connelly, and not just one of his books. This one took things to another level for me.

Read on... 


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