Thirty-odd years ago I knew this beautiful woman named Marti. We were good friends who never (well, almost never) let the boy-girl thing complicate our friendship. We were always giving each other books to read and music to listen to.
One of us gave to the other an album named "One Nation Underground" to listen to by a group called Pearls Before Swine. The album was a haunting, spare affair full of memorable songs; though my copy of it disappeared long ago, I still have most the lyrics committed to memory. But the most memorable thing about the album was the cover art, a nightmarish collage of debauchery and death. It turned out to be part of a painting titled "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by a Dutch painter who worked under the name Hieronymus Bosch. And it is this painting that forms that basis for much of the plot of Michael Connelly's new thriller A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT.
A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT heralds the return and pairing of two of Connelly's recurring characters: Terry McCaleb, previously seen in BLOOD WORK, and Harry Bosch, the complicated L. A. P. D. homicide detective last seen in Connelly's ANGELS FLIGHT. McCaleb, recovered from heart surgery and living a quiet life with his wife, stepson, and new daughter, is drawn, almost against his will, back to the world of criminal profiling when he is asked to assist the L. A. P. D. in a baffling homicide case. The victim, a man whose history includes being suspected in the murder of a prostitute, is found nude and bound in such a manner as to result in his asphyxiation. McCaleb notes the presence of a ceramic owl in the background of the crime scene photos. The presence and placing of the owl, which apparently did not belong to the victim, intrigues McCaleb. His research into the symbolism of the owl, coupled with a Latin phrase found written on the victim's bindings, eventually leads McCaleb to the painting "Garden of Earthly Delights" --- painted by Hieronymus Bosch, Harry Bosch's namesake. McCaleb soon discovers that Bosch and the victim have an antagonistic past relationship and that Bosch had seen the victim as recently as the night prior to his death. McCaleb, simultaneously reluctant to be involved in the investigation yet compelled to continue, is rapidly being drawn to the conclusion that Harry Bosch, his friend of some 12 years, is a murderer.
Bosch, meanwhile, is involved in a high profile murder trial. A prominent Hollywood film director is on trial for murder as a direct result of Bosch's investigation of the death of a beautiful, would-be actress. Bosch is the principal witness against the director and, as such, is under relentless attack from his legal defense team. When Bosch discovers he is suspected of murder by McCaleb, he confronts him directly, challenging him with the statement, "You Missed Something." But what?
A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT is unquestionably Connelly's best effort to date. Connelly's bibliography has been increasing quantitatively and qualitatively year by year, but his latest effort is far beyond anything he has written to date. His unhurried, spare narrative style is a perfect match for his characters, particularly the complicated Bosch, who continues to hold his stare into the abyss of the soul of southern California far too long for the good of his sanity and his soul. A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT will almost certainly put Connelly's name on the must-read lists of a new legions of mystery and suspense aficionados. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2001
A Darkness More Than Night