Following his appearance in 2006's ECHO PARK, Detective Harry Bosch is called into another complex case. This one starts out looking like an "old-fashioned hit." The body is of a man who has been shot twice in the back of the head. There is clear evidence that he was on his knees when killed, and all of his car doors are wide open. He also was carrying identification cards to almost all the hospitals in the area. Why?
A witness on Mulholland Drive, who was searching for what he thought was Madonna's house, saw the murder, despite the fact that he was trespassing on private property across the road from "an unofficial overlook of the city…posted with 'NO PARKING and OVERLOOK CLOSED AT DARK signs," which were ignored all the time. The ironic juxtaposition of a dead body, splayed against the awesome view of the city below, is not lost on Bosch.
As with all of Connelly's procedurals, the reader is treated to a hefty portion of police jargon, practices and clues. Bosch is a good cop and has paid his dues throughout his career. He has been retired for a few months but returns as part of the Homicide Special squad. His new, young partner is gun shy over some of the tactics Bosch uses while solving what becomes a very dangerous case. In addition to this handicap, Bosch is truly surprised when federal agent Rachel Walling shows up at the crime scene. As soon as the feds step in, they make it clear that the LAPD is not competent enough to solve such a sensitive case. Bosch and Walling were lovers, and their personal relationship haunts what becomes a war of egos and turf.
Walling shares with Bosch that the victim is Dr. Stanley Kent, a physicist with approved access to every hospital in the city. His job was to deliver radioactive isotopes and other forms of radiation treatments to these hospitals' cancer units. He was a fine citizen, and at first no motive seems to emerge from this tidbit of information they have uncovered.
But when Bosch demands an explanation from Walling, she confides in him: "Stanley Kent had direct access to materials that some people…would like to get their hands on…but [not to use for treating patients with certain kinds of cancer]." The material he handled could cause chaos and death through exposure. Terrorists might have planned Kent's murder for the sole purpose of stealing the radiation particles they knew he had, and they could be intent on using them in order to contaminate "a mall, a subway, whatever. It all depends on the quantity and…the delivery device." Bosch understands immediately --- she's talking about a "dirty bomb."
When the former lovers find Kent's wife naked, hog-tied and near hysteria in her bedroom (her story is that two masked men broke into her house), the plot thickens. Connelly has always satisfied readers with his insights, characters and prose. THE OVERLOOK is a maze wrapped in a mystery, a paradigm of a conundrum, of possible apocalyptic attack. This is Connelly at his best, and readers will find this book entertaining and perfect for summer reading.
In an age of worldwide paranoia about terrorists and the fear that haunts us, this is an approachable story imbued with information about how simple things could change if we consider the nightmare of safe materials falling into the wrong hands. But Connelly is very smart. THE OVERLOOK does have a message, though it is not intended to frighten his audience. Rather, he seems to offer an opportunity for dialogue and introspective meditation about the state of the world today.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 14, 2011