Michael Connelly has been busily carving and hewing a place in
modern detective fiction, a place which started as a niche but
which is gradually starting to resemble a cave. His novels
detailing the cases of his most famous creation, Hieronymus "Harry"
Bosch, have become a sub-genre unto themselves, casting a stark,
unblinking illumination on the psyches of both criminal
perpetrators and the members of law enforcement that is so bright
and so clear as to be by turns beautiful and painful to gaze upon.
If it is too early, perhaps, to call him the American Dostoevsky,
there is certainly no one else working in the genre who comes close
to pretending to the title.
CITY OF BONES begins and ends in darkness of both the day and the
spirit. A dog, out for an evening stroll with its owner on the
first night of the first day of a new year, unearths a skeletal
fragment that belongs to a child. Bosch catches the call, and under
his direction, more of the skeleton is unearthed. Forensics
determines that the skeleton is that of a male, deceased for at
least a decade, under 14 years of age and subjected to prolonged,
possibly lifelong, abuse. Bosch, almost alone, is determined that
the boy to whom these bones belonged not be forgotten and that his
killer be brought to justice.
Connelly uses CITY OF BONES as a canvas to further paint the
psychological portrait of Bosch, which he has been etching and
painting for the past several years, revealing him in dribs and
drabs, at times more by implication than by statement. Bosch, in
CITY OF BONES, is revealed to be all too human. He is a good, but
not great, investigator. Opportunities are missed due to bad
guesses, failure to follow through, poor judgment, and mistakes.
Bosch, at the same time, is aware of his shortcomings and at times
judges himself too harshly. He cannot do everything. Yet, he
occasionally makes poor decisions that he could avoid. His affair
with a female cop in CITY OF BONES is more than a case of fishing
off his own pier; it's a potentially career-ending move, one made
more so by the occurrence of a disastrous ending to a relatively
simple facet of the investigation. Despite the turbulence that
Connelly reveals in Bosch's life, in his soul, Connelly never
forgets that there is a mystery at the heart of CITY OF BONES. The
investigation and its conclusion are stunning in their execution,
presentation, and brilliance.
Longtime readers of the Bosch novels with be left shaking their
heads in wonder at the end of CITY OF BONES. Connelly will be
publishing an epilogue, of sorts, to the novel in the form of an
interview with Harry Bosch on his website (www.michaelconnelly.com)
subsequent to the publication of CITY OF BONES. Do not read the
epilogue before reading the novel --- reading the epilogue will
cause confusion at best, and at worst will result in giving away
one of the more startling conclusions of the year. Reading CITY OF
BONES will make it worth the wait.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011