Harry Bosch hates high jingo.
But in The Drop, the 18th novel in Michael Connelly's bestselling series about the Los Angeles homicide detective, Bosch catches a case that has high jingo — political implications and high-level secrets — all over it.
Bosch's current assignment in the Los Angeles Police Department is the Open Unsolved Unit. It suits him in many ways, not least of which being that cold cases from two or three decades ago are highly unlikely to have the aura of high jingo. Cases involving powerful people don't get shoved to the back of the shelf.
As The Drop opens, Bosch's boss has drawn him into one of those back-of-the-shelf cases even though it's been assigned to another pair of detectives in the unit. Standard procedure for investigating cold cases is to test any physical evidence for DNA — a valuable tool not available decades in the past. In the unsolved case of Lily Price, a college student abducted in broad daylight, raped and strangled back in 1989, a tiny drop of blood left on her body has turned up a DNA hit. The blood belongs to Clayton Pell, a man with a long history of sex crimes.
The problem: When Lily Price was murdered, Pell was 8 years old.
Maybe it's an error in handling evidence, or maybe something much stranger is going on. But before Bosch can even get his head around that case, he's called out for a command performance, investigating a case that is the very essence of high jingo.
A man lies dead in the parking lot of the glamorous Chateau Marmont, a bloody mess after dropping seven stories from one of the hotel's posh suites. The dead man is George Irving, a former lawyer and police officer — and the son of Irvin Irving, a powerful City Council member, former cop and Bosch's longtime nemesis.
So why has Irving insisted that Bosch be the one to investigate his son's death, and why does he refuse to believe it was a suicide? Irving tells the detective, "I didn't like you or your methods but I respected you."
But Bosch senses high jingo everywhere, especially when he finds out that George Irving, whose main source of income seems to be selling his father's clout, was involved in one taxi company's effort to wrest a lucrative territory from another company, perhaps by influencing a council vote. That might sound like small change, but in a city like Los Angeles it could mean a not-so-small fortune. The question is whether it's enough to make someone kill a man.
Connelly revs up a speedy dual plot as Bosch juggles the two cases, but he also devotes a good bit of The Drop to the detective's evolving relationship with his 15-year-old daughter, who came to live with him several books back after her mother's death. Bosch didn't even know he had a daughter for the first years of Maddie's life, but he has been deeply affected by her, as when he looks at old crime scene photos: "There had been a time when looking at photos like this fueled him, gave him the fire he needed to be relentless. But since Maddie had come to live with him, it was increasingly more difficult for him to look at victims."
Connelly, who lives in Tampa, has a daughter just about Maddie's age, and his depiction of the relationship between Bosch and Maddie rings true, if somewhat unusual, as this phone conversation between them suggests:
" '. . . Make a sandwich if you're hungry before I get back. And make sure the door's locked.'
" 'I know, Dad.'
" 'And you know where the Glock is.'
" 'Yes, I know where it is and I know how to use it.'
" 'Okay, that's my girl.' "
Maddie's shooting lessons aren't just about the dangers she's faced in the past because of Bosch's job. The kid has declared that she wants to be a police detective herself, and Bosch has to admit she's a chip off the old block. Not only does she demonstrate a reliable intuitive sense about evidence in his cases; she's been learning his interview techniques and uses them — gleefully — to bluff her father into a confession of his own.
Unlike some series characters, Bosch has continued to evolve over the course of 18 books, and developing his role as a father is one way Connelly has kept him fresh. Another is the author's choice to age Bosch in real time. Connelly is fond of titles that have multiple meanings, and this time The Drop refers not only to the blood evidence in the Price case and George Irving's cause of death (both of which lead in shocking directions), but to the Deferred Retirement Option Program. Bosch, a Vietnam vet staring down mandatory retirement age, is thinking hard about how long he can be a cop — or wants to be one, or should be.
I'm hoping he sticks around. Bosch, flawed and fierce, is one of those guys we want to believe is real. Here's his answer when someone asks him where evil comes from:
"Look, all I can tell you is that nobody knows where it comes from, okay? It's just out there and it is responsible for truly awful things. And my job is to find it and take it out of the world. I don't need to know where it comes from to do that."
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.