Has Harry Bosch gone over to the dark side?
Fans of Michael Connelly's internationally bestselling series of novels about Bosch know him as a longtime Los Angeles Police Department homicide investigator, a man with a personal moral code so intense it often lands him in trouble with the powers that be. (He's also the title character in the excellent Amazon Prime TV series based on Connelly's books; Season 2 of Bosch will debut early in 2016.)
But in The Crossing, the 20th book featuring him, Harry has retired. Yes, he retired once before and worked briefly as a private investigator, but this time around he's full retirement age, and the department has given him an extra nudge out the door with a trifling disciplinary action (that he's suing over).
So going back is not an option. Harry has been trying to ignore news reports about local crime, puttering with restoring a 1950 Harley-Davidson that has been in his garage for 20 years, making efforts (with mixed success) to connect with his daughter just before she leaves for college and mostly not knowing what to do with himself.
When his half brother Mickey Haller (a.k.a. the Lincoln Lawyer and main character of another Connelly series) makes a lunch date, Harry enjoys watching Mickey's performance in the courtroom before their meal. He expects an update on his lawsuit against the LAPD, but Mickey has something else in mind.
Mickey is a defense lawyer — a species that for all of Harry's long career as a cop was his natural enemy. So when Mickey proposes hiring Harry to help him prove the innocence of a client accused of a brutal murder, Harry's first reaction is outrage:
"I work a case for you — not just you, any defense lawyer — and it'll undo everything I did with the badge. ...
"You know what they call a guy who switches sides in homicide? They call him a Jane Fonda, as in hanging with the North Vietnamese."
But Harry thinks about it for a few days and realizes that what intrigues him — besides the case itself, which is complex — is this: "But Haller had missed the other half of that equation. If his client was truly innocent, then there was a killer out there whom no one was even looking for. A killer devious enough to set up an innocent man."
If defense lawyers are his natural enemies, killers are Harry's natural prey. Just this once, he tells Mickey; the lawyer's usual investigator, Cisco, is laid up after a motorcycle accident that Harry soon suspects is connected to the case. One and done.
The murder is perplexing. Lexi Parks, a city employee married to a police officer, was raped and beaten to death in her own bed, so viciously that the crime scene photos give even Harry pause. Her husband found the body when he came home from work.
Police had no leads and no sense of any possible motive for her murder. Then, more than a month later, DNA evidence from the scene was matched to someone in the crime database: Da'Quan Foster, a reformed gang member who did prison time for drugs years earlier but has since found success as a self-taught artist and arts educator. He's a husband and father. He has no apparent connection to Parks. But he has been charged with her murder.
Foster tells Harry he has an alibi, but it's one he doesn't want made public: "I was with someone. Not my wife." Once Harry discovers that person was murdered a few days after Foster's arrest, he's like a dog with a scent.
Harry's always relentless methods now rise to a higher degree of difficulty. He can't request search warrants or make arrests to formalize interrogations. He's improvising all the time and sometimes treading a very fine line, like when he shows someone he wants to question his police ID — and holds a finger over the line that says "retired." Some of his former colleagues are willing to help him, while others leave him voicemails lambasting his betrayal.
The number of bodies rises and the case becomes even stranger, but Harry is back in his groove, hurtling alone down the freeway: "He loved these solitary moments of concentration and case thought. He always broke his thoughts into three distinct channels of logic: the things he knew, the things he could assume, and the things he wanted to know. The last channel was always the widest."
Connelly lives in Tampa but worked as a reporter in Los Angeles for many years, and as always he makes expert use of the city as a setting, from the glitzy offices of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon to the lonesome alley behind an auto repair shop where a prostitute's body is found.
Finding the connections between the parts of the case — the crossings of the title, the places where apparently unconnected people encounter one another — gives readers Harry at his best. We get the bonus of seeing Mickey take that case to court for one of his bravura performances.
One and done? We'll see.
Contact Colette Bancroft at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.