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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Everybody Counts or Nobody Counts

Harry Bosch, one of America’s best known fictional policed detectives in the long running series by Michael Connelly, has a fundamental principle guiding him:

Everybody counts or nobody counts.

It has driven him in pursuing killers. Each victim – whatever social status or sex or age or race – deserves his best efforts. The phrase is repeated in almost every book in the series.

In an article in the Chicago Tribune in 2012 Connelly speaks about the phrase: 

"The reality is that detectives are not always investigating the murders of their girlfriends or people they know," says Connelly, who took up writing crime after several years as a police reporter at the Los Angeles Times, in an interview. "They have to make impersonal cases personal, and I gave Harry that ability. He comes to a crime scene, and his client, if you will, is dead. It's the unfairness of what's happened to that person that makes him angry, and gives him that relentless drive to find out what happened and zero in on whoever was responsible. As he always says, everybody counts or nobody counts."

In the most recent book, The Burning Room, Harry cringes when, during a meeting with prominent Latin politician Armando Zeyas, his superior recounts the phrase as confirmation of Harry’s dedication and Zeyas is instantly smitten by the phrase.

Later Harry is attending an event in support of Zeyas and finds:

      On the second floor they walked down a long hallway
      with entrances to the various ballrooms. The Merv
      Griffin Room was actually a grand ballroom at the end
      of the hallway with two sets of double doors that stood
      open and waiting. On the wall between the doors was a
      ten-foot-high poster showing a black-and-white photo
      of Armando Zeyas shaking hands and engageed with a
      circle of smiling supporters. The shot had been taken
      with a fish-eye lens, which gave the resulting photo an
      exaggerated sense that Zeyas stood at the cener of the
      people. Bosch paused in horror when he saw the slogan
      printed above the circle of people of every age, gender,
      and race:
            Everybody Counts or Nobody Counts!
     Zeyas 2016

To think a politician would usurp his precious phrase leaves Harry fuming.

Zeyas has also adopted the phrase without attribution to Harry for which Harry is probably grateful.

I thought it was brilliant for Connelly to have Harry’s signature phrase stolen away. To make it a politician, a profession despised by Harry, makes it even more apt. It is exactly what he would expect from an unscrupulous politician.
As I thought about the phrase I searched on the net to see if it had origins before Harry Bosch. While I have seen it in use in some health or social work websites I have not found a source beyond Harry.

Archbishop Ilsley Catholic School in Acocks Green, Birmingham, England has adopted the phrase as its school motto but there is no specific sourcing of the motto.

Many have used the phrase everybody counts. Nelson Mandala used it in speaking of the Special Olympics:

After watching some of the competitions, Mandela said: “When you attend a Special Olympics Games…and watch the sheer joy on faces – not just of the athletes, but more overwhelmingly among spectators – you begin to realize there is much more at work than simply athletic competition. On one hand, it is the story of years of tragedy transformed into pure joy, driven by the beauty of sheer effort. But at the same time, it is a profound statement of inclusion – that everybody matters, everybody counts, every life has value, and every person has worth.” 

What is uncommon is the combination of "everybody counts" with "nobody counts".

I have not found other sources to say “everybody counts or nobody counts” was a theme for fictional sleuths before Harry.

Despite Zeyas I expect Harry will continue to live by his creed in the next book by Connelly.


  1. I expect he will, too, Bill. And I have to admit, I really like that credo. It is believable, and it adds to the story line, that Zeyas would co-opt it and not attribute it to Bosch, but I always associate that phrase with Bosch. And I like the way that Connelly has woven that belief into Bosch's character all throughout the series.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I think a lifetime catch phrase has been established.

  2. I wasn't aware of that Bill, I haven't read enough Connelly, and found your post very interesting. It's an excellent motto.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the kind words. It is a good motto for all of us to remember.

  3. I have only read the first in the Harry Bosch series so don't have much background but I do like that creed he abides by. The police detectives in series I like approach their jobs in the same manner.

  4. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Harry is the detective every victim would want to investigate the crime.