By Philip Hall
I’ve been given a rather unique privilege in receiving all 20 volumes of Michael Connelly’s books featuring detective Harry Bosch and reading them in sequence over several months. They were a prize in a publisher’s competition won by my wife who presented them to me. I had read a few previously but re-reading the sequence in order provides a new perspective.
The main character is Harry Bosch, a Los Angeles detective. Curiously we are never given a description of him although Connelly gives a short description of almost all people who appear. The series begins with Bosch, middle aged and a senior detective and goes to what we assume is his retirement. He is highly regarded by his colleagues and spontaneously applauded by them when he leaves.
His rather tangled home life proceeds through the books. In the latter volumes after the sudden death of his estranged wife he cares for his daughter, Madeleine. It is very clear he is devoted to her and he often agonises over his fairly frequent absences. However the main family member is Mickey Haller who he finds late in life is his half brother. Haller, a lawyer, is the protagonist in several books with Bosch only making a passing appearance. In only one book do Haller and Bosch work together. Haller also has a daughter by an estranged wife. Hayley is similar in age to her cousin who she meets in the final book. The Haller books feature courtroom scenes with a deal of comment on trial tactics. Connelly appears intimately familiar with US courtroom and legal procedure.
Bosch is presented as a hard working cop who has as his slogan “everybody counts or nobody counts”. His approach is even obsessive and he is known as an abrasive person. Although he is often at odds with his management the cliché of the rogue loner is avoided as he sometimes gets along well with his supervisors. Generally he has problems with his partners through acting alone and keeping them in the dark. The exception is in the final book when he is mentoring a young lady detective who he admires and believes to have his own obsessive approach.
Connelly clearly has an intimate knowledge of police procedures and some details of things like police slang are explained. While there isn’t an overwhelming sense of place Connelly does always give great detail about routes driven by Bosch. Presumably these routes are accurate and the traffic density and jams are conveyed.
Relationships are not explored in detail with women. Bosch marries early in the series, parts from his wife and has a few isolated relationships thereafter. The one he starts then finishes with Rachel Walling becomes a continued very minor theme through the books. The impression left is that Bosch regrets losing Rachel but her main role in later books is as a minor character and as an FBI agent to bring that organisation into plots.
These are plot driven thrillers. Some are genuinely thrilling with surprising twists. However the impression is left that Connelly is declining and some later work is more routine police procedural. Having said that the books are well above the general run and are deservedly popular.
Connelly does write other books although generally set in the Los Angeles area and in the thriller genre.