OK then, I said October was MC month. I had to catch up on my “to read” list and back to back Connelly was the plan. And just in case that header caused some tremors, all three books are real treats, not a trick in sight!
After Minette Walters with The Devil’s Feather I was looking for something to draw me in pretty quickly. Connelly is an expert at hooking in the first very few pages and I was gripped almost immediately.
Connelly has pursued two series, one with LAPD officer Harry Bosch and another with FBI profiler Terry McCaleb. In A Darkness More Than Night he brought his protagonists together in one book and one story, so they have a shared history, shared respect and shared appreciation for one another and their professional abilities.
At the opening of The Narrows, Terry McCaleb is dead and his widow approaches Harry Bosch, now a retired-from-the-LAPD private investigator, to look into his death. Terry’s widow is a nurse and she knows that his medication, post-heart transplant, which McCaleb took religiously each day, was meddled with in the days leading up to his death.
It was well known on the publication of this book that it was a follow up to The Poet, Connelly’s 1996 novel featuring McCaleb in a lesser role, alongside Rachel Walling, FBI agent, and Jack McEvoy, a journalist.
I took advice on this one, “If you haven’t already, you must read The Poet before you read The Narrows” said my wonderful crime fiction reading friend. I did and I’m glad. My copy of The Poet had been hiding in my “to read” pile for a couple of years – I came to Mr Connelly a bit late, you understand – so I read it in the spring of this year, knowing that I had the thrills of The Narrows to follow.
Having read it first, I can confirm the advice I took was good advice, but not essential. If you already love and follow the series, reading The Poet first is a must. If you are new to the series, it’s possibly optional, but believe me, reading The Poet first, is still a good bet. The Poet leaves an open end, a deliberate action from Connelly; he thought it would represent the real world, where the loose ends often remain hanging. But then, some people pushed him into writing a sequel he never planned and it became The Narrows. The serial killer we all thought was subdued at the very least, returns with all synapses fired up. What can he now do? What is he capable of?
Knowing the detail of the back story here just adds to the satisfaction on reading The Narrows, which is a great story. Both The Poet and The Narrows are extremely good reads, but together and in order, they make a much bigger and better story. And in The Narrows, we get to know exactly what the surviving Poet is capable of, sick human that he is. (I’m so glad this is fiction.)
Bosch, as a PI, finds his own investigation colliding with one run by the FBI. He needs to find a way of working with them and falls into an uneasy alliance with the sidelined Rachel Walling.
Most of the book is set in Las Vegas, or very near to that gambling metropolis. The ever human Bosch has a daughter there; her mother making a decent living out of gambling, which Bosch hates. Bosch is not perfect, but he does want to spend time with his newly discovered daughter and we see him loving every moment of it.
This is a novel of suspense, chase and tension, rather than a whodunit. Connelly grips and also twists what he creates. It’s a journey for Bosch and one in which the reader will certainly enjoy the bumps and dips from the side car.
Here, Harry Bosch is back on the force. We join him on day one as he rejoins the LAPD, hooks up with his previous partner, Kiz Rider, and takes back the badge he once held, but with his old boss, Deputy Chief Irving, still on his tail, relishing his downfall. Harry retains his strong sense of right from wrong, even if the shadow of his old boss and his grubby politics impact our hero’s decision making.
Harry’s first case in the “Open-Unsolved Unit” is that of the 1988 murder of a bi-racial teenage girl. A very recent DNA match means that the murderer has been identified, or so we are led to believe. But DNA is not everything. We soon learn that the DNA has to be matched to the actual incident, and time of the incident, in order to get a conviction. So there’s the gap that needs to be filled with evidence. Nothing is ever simple though, is it? Connelly brings us a does of realism in pursuing a cold case.
As the story develops we hear so much about the murdered girl that we cannot but hope that the Open-Unsolved Unit finds resolution. She was just a normal teenager, full of hope and fear for the world she found herself in, and then, suddenly, she was dead, killed in what looked like a pre-meditated attack. Connelly is renowned for his tight plotting and this book is no exception. More than once I thought I’d spotted a hole, a little error. But no, perhaps it was just a tease. Just a page or so on, I had the answer I was looking for. Every base was covered. There are absolutely no holes in Connelly’s plotting colander.
For me, The Closers was also far more of a social commentary on life today than The Narrows. It acknowledges how life can be, but also says it doesn’t have to be like this and leaves the door ajar. Perhaps because of the story and the plot, being a whodunit, I enjoyed this even more than The Narrows. The story grips and there is plenty of emotional investment. It may have taken almost two decades to resolve, but when Bosch and Rider finally have the case sewn up, it is so satisfying. It’s also a glide of a read. So, if you haven’t read it yet, Christmas is coming. Treat yourself, if others are oblique to the flashing neon messages you are capable of sending out!
The Lincoln Lawyer
Good bye for now, Harry Bosch, and hello Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother. But we don’t know that from that from the book itself; I’m just telling you, based on what I’ve picked up elsewhere.
Mickey’s an LA based small time criminal defense attorney, always hoping for the big case and mega bucks to come along, and working from the back seat of his car – a Lincoln. One day he gets a call from one of the bondsmen he has on his Christmas nut selection container payroll. This is the biggie. This could be the whopper of an earning franchise he so longs for. Louis Roulet has specifically asked for Mickey. He’s accused of assault and attempted rape. He lives on the right side of LA and he’s a real estate agent. It’s a family business and he’s mega-wealthy. They have a family lawyer, but Louis asks specifically for Mickey.
In this book, the plotting is again tight; twisting and turning in completely unexpected directions. If you start the book thinking you have some idea of where it’s going, I’m sure you’ll find yourself very surprised. I’ve read so much crime fiction now that I find myself working out the "who" or the "why" or the "how", before the end. Few authors keep me guessing these days, but Connelly did here, 100%.
As for the prose, the book is written from Mickey’s point of view and Connelly has achieved a very new and very characteristic voice. This is Mickey Haller speaking, the only way he knows how. You might find you don’t like him that much, after all, Connelly takes us right into the heart of Haller’s work, so we hear of some pretty miserable cases and the negotiation that goes on from the side of the defense. But it is possible to warm to Mickey; underneath the veneer that sometimes repels, he still has a conscience and remembers the right side from the wrong side.
For me, the diversions into other cases proved a distraction on times, but they do give you a sense of exactly what it is like to work as Haller does. The setting here is less LA, and more the courtrooms of LA, the lawyer’s office (back seat of the Lincoln), the constant phone calls and an Irish-American bar. That’s where it all happens and nothing is glamorised. This is the closest I think you can get to understanding just how a criminal defense attorney actually works in the US.
I initially thought, having read two really great Bosch books, that I wouldn’t like The Lincoln Lawyer. But by the end, indeed well before that, I loved it. This comment comes from someone who has not read a legal thriller in years. The Lincoln Lawyer has more twists than you’ll find in the DNA molecule.
In Haller, Connelly has created a character that elicits sympathy, but at the same time he reminds you that this is a "love" and sometimes "hate" relationship. You can understand why Haller has two ex-wives and why both of them still care for him, possibly still love him, in their own way. But that’s another story, another sub-plot; I recommend you read the book. I really do believe you’d enjoy it. The Lincoln Lawyer is Connelly on top form, coming of age, as if we could ever doubt it...
Spoiler warning for The Lincoln Lawyer
If you are keen to find out what is coming next from Connelly and when it’s due for publication avoid Amazon, if you are still to read The Lincoln Lawyer. The brief synopsis there is the mother of all spoilers, as far as the main plot of The Lincoln Lawyer is concerned. Honestly, how could they?
Stick to chocolate or whatever is your poison, but don’t read the synopsis of Echo Park! And don’t say I didn’t warn you, if you are foolish enough to think I’d even suggest teasing you. You have been warned!