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Book Review- “The Black Box

December 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Connelly_The_Black_Box__04693.1349886238.1280.1280The police procedural is a genre that can be dull and predictable when it’s done wrong, but when it’s done right you get amazing things like the television shows “The Shield,” and “The Wire;” the comic book series “Gotham Central,” and “Powers;” and the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly. Conelly’s latest novel to star LAPD Detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, “The Black Box,” is a classic example of why he’s so good at the procedural drama and what it can be when you have a compelling character.

In the last Bosch novel, “The Drop,” Connelly reintroduced an obstacle that had been missing from the series for awhile, the dangerous and complicating world of politics, and politics continue to confound Harry in the “Black Box.” It’s a fun and powerful struggle to watch too because dealing with politics upsets Bosch and throws him off his game so he was to work harder.

The political complications in “The Black Box” arise from infamous chapter in the history of the city Bosch calls him, the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 that erupted in the wake of the not guilty verdict in the trial of several police officers who were video taped beating motorist Rodney King. In the opening of the story Connelly flashes back and gives us a frightening and powerful look at this time in Los Angeles as he takes readers to a crime scene that Bosch investigates.

Because of the chaotic nature of the riots Bosch is only able to do preliminary work at the murder scene of journalist found shot dead in an alley before he has to move on to another murder sight. So after the opening section the book takes us back to the present where it’s the 20th anniversary of the riots and Bosch and his fellow Detectives in the LAPD’s Open/Unsolved unit are working to close some of the cases that were never solved during that time period. Bosch’s current assignment is to find justice for the journalist he found murdered in an alley on that fateful night two decades ago.

Readers of the Bosch novels know that Harry takes these cases very personally. So it’s always imagefascinating to watch him dive in and try to find a killer. Often it means immersing himself in interesting worlds and environments. In “The Black Box” the first world he steps into is the LA gang culture and you’re given a compelling look at it’s structure, how the various criminal organizations work, and how they affect the lives of their members.

From there Connelly takes his protagonist into a a completely different territory. I don’t want to say much for fear of spoilers, but in the latter half of the book Harry’s investigation takes him out of LA and becomes very “off the book.” It’s not something you regularly see in the Bosch novels, but when you do it’s exciting, especially when Harry gets into big trouble as he does here.

The Black Box” of course involves the usual collection of supporting characters from the other Bosch books like his daughter Maddy, who continues to be awesome. One of the subplots in the Bosch novels right now is Harry’s approaching retirement, and if that happens I wouldn’t mind seeing Connelly jump a few years and follow Maddy who wants to be a cop like her father.

David Chu, Bosch’s partner is also present and he continues to grow on me. Hannah Stone, Harry’s current love interest, has a minor role, but she’s become a character who kind of rubs me the wrong way. I believe that’s deliberate on the author’s part. So I’m curious to see where that relationship goes in future books.

We also meet some fascinating new characters in “The Black Box” as well. The political element of the story comes into play in the form of Bosch’s new Lieutenant. He makes an interesting adversary for Harry, one you love to hate. He’s not quite Irvin H Irving, Bosch’s arch-nemesis from the first few novels, but there’s potential there. Another character who comes to play because of the political element is an Internal Affairs Detective who begins investigating Bosch. She’s especially cool and compelling. I hope we see her in later books.

So all in all “The Black Box” is another example of why Michael Connelly is one of the best police procedural writers in the business. If you’re discovering his work for the first time with this book you’ve picked a good place to start. And if you’re long time fan, sit back and enjoy, because “The Black Box is all the great stuff you’ve come to expect from a Harry Bosch book.

Categories: Book Review, Harry Bosch