Gritty police detectives who sometimes operate outside of department boundaries are a favorite character in crime novels. Sometimes they are too much of a favorite character and it’s hard to strike the chord of originality with such a character. If the second book in his Harry Bosch series is any indication, though, author Michael Connelly has done well with his main character.
Harry Bosch is a Viet Nam veteran turned homicide police detective in the Los Angeles police department. He’s not well-liked around the department for various reasons. The main one seems to be that he won’t play politics the way others will, believing that solving the case is the main objective over any politics that might be involved. He’s a loner in life, both on the job and off, living in a house in the hills which he purchased after getting a deal as a consultant on a television show.
In The Black Ice, it’s getting close to the end of the year, and Harry’s boss, Lt. Pounds, wants to bump up his statistics a bit to close out the year. He hands over another detective’s caseload to Harry. Lucius Porter has been battling the bottle for years and is finally going out on leave. As Harry peruses his unsolved cases, one, in particular, grabs his attention. As he goes over the details, Harry links the unsolved murder case to a narcotics detective who recently committed suicide. Although he’s been told to stay away from that case, the details of which just didn’t seem to sit right with Harry, working on this murder case opens doors on the apparent suicide as well.
The title The Black Ice refers to a new designer drug being trafficked in from Mexico. It ties into the case Harry begins investigating when he takes over Porter’s caseload. The fact that Harry can solve the mystery so neatly in just about a week requires some suspension of disbelief. As is often the case on television shows such as CSI and NCIS, the clues fall into place a little too neatly and conveniently. The mystery of the deceased narcotics detective isn’t too much of a surprise. Part of it I called early on, the rest was a bit of a reach but worked nicely in the story.
Harry is abrasive, but he gets results. People who don’t want to cooperate with him end up cooperating with him. The other way is working outside of the department rules, especially when he travels down to Mexico, where his deceased body was from. It’s also where the drugs have been coming from. Although everyone has a pretty good idea of what’s going on, Harry needs proof, especially since he’s now dealing with a government contractor. The DEA already had their eyes where Harry’s now looking, which makes the story work better. It’s not like he’s the only one with a clue as to what’s going on. I have a problem with stories where everyone except the “hero” seems totally clueless.
Harry also seems to be quite the ladies’ man. He had a friend with benefits in Theresa, who is about to become L.A.’s chief medical examiner, and also becomes involved with the widow of the apparent suicide. I don’t know if it’s a case of the author wanting to live vicariously through his character or not, so I’ll get further in the series before deciding, but just in the first two novels that case could be made.
The other issue with The Black Ice is that it is a little dated. Technology isn’t up to what we’re used to now with computers compiling data for quick reference and cell phones keeping us connected all the time. Coming into the series new, this is more noticeable than for someone who read the book when it was originally published back in 1993.
As a detective novel, though The Black Ice is a winner. The character of Harry Bosch is a good one. He has his faults but he’s also got a moral compass that he sticks to. Setting him against the very system he is working for also gives the story an edge and him a lone-wolf quality that works better than if he had a steady partner. You could pick up the series here with no problems if you didn’t want to go back and read the first novel as this stands alone quite well.
Previous book in the series (link): The Black Echo