Book Reviews

Book Review: The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly – Harry Bosch Haunted by a Serial Killer

The third book in Michael Connelly’s series about Los Angeles Homicide detective Harry Bosch builds quite well on what was set up in earlier books.  Harry is the type of detective that authors as well as movie producers love.  He works outside of normal parameters and is a bit of a lone wolf, but is effective, delivering the goods more often than not.  Harry gained notoriety for his work on a serial killer case in Los Angeles known as “The Dollmaker.”  This work enabled him to get credit as a consultant on a television show and a nice chunk of change as well.

The Concrete Blonde builds on the background set up in the first two books, so I wouldn’t attempt to read it before reading those.  Harry’s back-story comes front and center as the widow of The Dollmaker is suing the city for his death.  You see, Harry was acting on a tip from a hooker who claimed she escaped from The Dollmaker when he had her show him the apartment she had escaped from.  Worried that there was possibly another victim inside, Harry entered without a warrant and killed the man known as The Dollmaker as he reached for something under a pillow, which turned out to be a toupee.

Representing the widow is high-powered attorney Honey “Money” Chandler.  Her angle is that Harry’s action unfairly denied Norman Church (a.k.a. The Dollmaker) the right to a trial which might have resulted in his being proclaimed innocent.  This would seem to be a reach until there’s a new note from someone alleging to be The Dollmaker as well as a new body.

As the trial goes on, the ins and outs of the investigation play out.  Harry has misgivings throughout and the reader follows this roller-coaster as well.  Could he have killed an innocent man?  Who is the mole in the investigation that is feeding information to the press and possibly Honey Chandler?  Could all of this be an elaborate ruse on her part to win her case? Could the widow be involved?

There were so many scenarios that ran through my head as I read The Concrete Blonde that I really had no idea what the end result was going to be.  It’s one mystery that kept me guessing, and that’s a hard thing to do.

The characters here are great.  I liked seeing Harry face-off against Honey Chandler and she wasn’t really a love interest for him.  As much as they were adversaries, he admired her on a professional level.  They had different approaches to the idea of justice, and their discussions outside of the courthouse while grabbing a quick smoke was interesting and enlightening.  Harry’s romance is with the widow Sylvia Moore, whose husband was involved in the previous book.  Their romance is reaching a crucial point where Harry must open up to her more than he ever has with anyone before, but he’s not sure he can do it.  All of the characters are multi-dimensional and build nicely on what we know about them, or in Honey’s case, make her into something more than a one-dimensional money-grubbing lawyer.

The pace is great.  Things seem to continually move along and the pace of the police investigation into the new murder works great against the courtroom drama.  After The Black Ice, I didn’t think Connelly would suck me in with this one he way he did.  Of the two, I find The Concrete Blonde to be a much better book.

As the third book in the series, The Concrete Blonde is definitely a winner.  I could even make a case that it was better than the first book in the series.  Whether it’s that Connelly has developed the character of Harry Bosch to a point he’s comfortable with or just the material and story were so good that it flowed easily, I can’t say for sure.  It’s just a fine police and courtroom drama combined.