The Black Box by Michael Connelly

February 5, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): In a case that spans 20 years, Harry Bosch links the bullet from a recent crime to a file from 1992, the killing of a young female photographer during the L.A. riots. Harry originally investigated the murder, but it was then handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force and never solved.

Now Bosch’s ballistics match indicates that her death was not random violence, but something more personal, and connected to a deeper intrigue. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the “black box,” the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together.

Riveting and relentlessly paced, THE BLACK BOX leads Harry Bosch, “one of the greats of crime fiction” (New York Daily News), into one of his most fraught and perilous cases.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Bosch was much less of an asshole in this book than in previous installments in the series. I liked that he started treating his partner with a bit more respect, and I liked that he didn’t strongarm his way into getting what he wanted. For example, instead of throwing the ballistics guy against the wall and threatening him to speed Bosch’s case along, Harry bought the guy a sandwich and asked nicely for his favor.
  • The return of Jerry Edgar! Aw, it was nice to see Edgar get some page time here. He was a good character and I didn’t realize how much I missed him until his reappearance here (via flashback).
  • I liked that a seemingly random phone call to check up on the cold case was what led Bosch to cracking the thing open. Sure, I realized well before Harry did that someone at the tractor dealership merely used the name “Alex White” because it was on a customer receipt or invoice, but still. It seemed like a legit clue instead of some far less believable deus ex machina.
  • Thank god Connelly didn’t make the IAB cop a stereotypical hardass bitch. Mendenhall came off as confident and competent. She didn’t take shit from anyone, but didn’t have to be a ballbuster to prove her point.

Disliked:

  • Everything that had to do with Bosch’s personal life was extremely boring. From his birthday party to his “relationship” with Hannah to the time spent with his daughter (especially the endless gun simulator scene)… It was all just filler. After 20 novels or whatever, we already know what kind of person Bosch is and don’t need these very extended passages detailing his home life.
  • It felt like it took the book forever to get going. The prologue was so long and consisted of so much description and narrative that I couldn’t get into the story on my first try. I put the book aside for a couple weeks and came back to it after finishing two others. Whatever happened to starting in media res?
  • Why does Bosch always have to have a supervisor or higher-up riding his ass on every case? With his track record, you’d think the department would cut him some slack at some point. I hate that these management types are always portrayed by Connelly as idiotic fools.
  • Although the premise of committing a murder during the LA riots in the hopes that the body would blend in with all the chaos was a good one, the actual crime the National Guardsmen were covering up was kind of a dud. So these 5 Guardsmen from the same unit gang raped a Danish journalist and she tracked them down a year later in LA? And then they killed her? That’s just all kinds of unlikely.

Rating:

I pretty much read Michael Connelly out of habit now, not out of a burning desire to catch Harry Bosch’s next adventure. After all this time, I think it’s time to retire the character. At one point in The Black Box, it looked like Harry might die — and I was perfectly okay with that thought. Let him turn in his badge and have Maddie take over the series, with Harry acting as a consultant. As for The Black Box, I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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