Harry Bosch fans can rejoice. The latest addition to Michael Connelly’s bestselling series --- which debuted 20 years ago with THE BLACK ECHO in 1992 --- is set very much in Bosch’s present but also sheds a bit of light on the Los Angeles police detective’s “hidden history.” Connelly is letting Bosch age in a somewhat graceful manner, and while there are almost certainly fewer installments to come than already have been published, THE BLACK BOX presents a crusty yet nonetheless competent Bosch at his aging best.
"Connelly, while not a literary stylist, is a master storyteller whose straightforward, no-nonsense prose lends itself well to constructing a subtle suspense that is infused in THE BLACK BOX from beginning to end. And while the story focuses primarily on Bosch’s case and career, some side issues involving Bosch’s personal life provide an interesting contrast to the main proceedings."
The title of this book is Bosch’s term for the piece of evidence that pulls a murder case together and makes a satisfactory resolution possible. The “black box” that Bosch is seeking here pertains to a case in which he was involved (for all of an hour) some 20 years previously, when the city of Los Angeles was held hostage by riots in the wake of the Rodney King verdict. One of the tragic victims in the midst of the lawlessness was an anomaly named Anneke Jespersen, a photographer-journalist from Denmark who was shot to death in an alley. Bosch was called to the scene when her body was discovered, but the case was handed off to someone else and all too soon was consigned to limbo.
A member of the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved unit, Bosch takes a fresh look at the case as the 20th anniversary of the riots approaches, and slowly but steadily begins to follow the cold evidence trail. It is by no means an easy trail to follow. Potential witnesses are scattered and, in some cases, hostile when located, and the motive for the killing is unknown.
In Bosch’s mind, one of the major pieces to the puzzle is determining what the victim was doing in that particular alley to begin with. The answer goes back to a time even before the King riots, and to a place other than Los Angeles, as he follows the trail and his instincts. Surprisingly enough, his investigation is hamstrung from within. The police administration wants him to focus on other murders that took place on that fateful night, murders whose victims fit a politically correct profile. However, his biggest political impediment of all is his immediate supervisor, a micro-manager whose style clashes with that of the maverick but efficient Bosch.
Left to hang on his own, Bosch soon finds himself up against a dangerous adversary who thought the deeds that occurred on a fateful night some two decades previously were hidden forever.
Connelly, while not a literary stylist, is a master storyteller whose straightforward, no-nonsense prose lends itself well to constructing a subtle suspense that is infused in THE BLACK BOX from beginning to end. And while the story focuses primarily on Bosch’s case and career, some side issues involving his personal life provide an interesting contrast to the main proceedings. There are a few surprises as well, including the insertion of a character who has the potential to complicate --- in a good way --- Bosch’s life in the future. Only time will tell.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 30, 2012