Book Reviews

Book Review: The Black Box by Michael Connelly – Time Is Not On Harry’s Side

Star rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As I read through this series of novels, I appreciate that author Michael Connelly manages to keep things fresh with the character of Harry Bosch. There are some aspects of his personality that don’t change from book to book, but he also admits to his faults and attempts to correct them and move forward.

Bosch is still working with the LAPD Open-Unsolved unit, trying to close cold cases that have been sitting out there for a while. He catches one that he remembers: a young photo-journalist from Denmark was found dead during the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict. Written off as a victim of the rioting, her case was never seriously pursued… until now. Harry was a young detective at the time and didn’t have the time to do much at the scene when her body was found. Now, the same gun that killed Anneke Jespersen has turned up, involved in another murder.

Bosch jumps at the chance to work on this case again. However, combine twenty years of fading memories with a lack of evidence and a crime scene that was compromised from the start, and he doesn’t have much to go on. If you know Bosch as I do, that’s not about to stop him, no matter how many toes he steps on along the way.

I loved reading The Black Box. Connelly manages to address the riots in Los Angeles more directly than he ever has without directly addressing the issues at hand. He’s not weighing in on the Rodney King situation or the effect on the Los Angeles Police Department, but he shows what it was like to live in the city during that time as well as what it was like for a young detective to confront the situation. There aren’t many instances of social commentary, but the point is made that not much has changed in the ensuing years.

At the same time, there’s a great mystery here. Bosch starts with the only thing he has to go on – the gun – and follows the trail where it takes him. True justice is a search for the truth, not just who it’s convenient to pin a crime on, and Bosch believes justice is more important than closing a case. There is much more to what happened to Anneke Jespersen than just being a random victim of the rioting in Los Angeles, and Bosch won’t let it go, even when his life is threatened.

Connelly reveals things slowly. The reader doesn’t learn or know anything more than Bosch does and we are carried along with him, following the trail he picks up. It really felt like I was there reading through the evidence and seeing where it would take me. There’s a little less in this book about his personal life. Harry’s daughter is still with him and he faces the challenges of being a single father head-on. We’re in his thoughts to see the awkwardness and second-guessing he does in this area, much more than he does at his job. At the same time, it doesn’t dominate the book. It serves to make him a well-rounded character who sometimes has to make some tough decisions.

Where it’s lacking a bit is Bosch’s relationship with others on the Force with him. He seems to push partners away and deliberately try to bait his superiors into situations where they castigate him – or not. He’s been that way off and on with partners. To be fair, some have let him down quite a bit. His relationship with co-workers isn’t great and even worse with his supervisors. However, he gets the job done and that’s why they tolerate him.

The Black Box was a great read. I do think you need to read at least a few of the books in this series to understand who Bosch is and why he acts the way he does. I think the series is the best continuing series I’ve read. I’m not feeling like I’m reading the same story over and over again and Bosch doesn’t act so outrageously that his actions can’t be believed. It’s a gritty detective novel that’s also very entertaining.