The Night Fire by Michael Connelly - Harry Bosch is facing mortality.
He attends yet another funeral of a retired colleague, John Jack Thompson. At the gathering after the service Thompson’s widow gives a murder book to Bosch.
Renee Ballard, continuing to work the late show, returns to the station after being called to the scene of a homeless man who burned to death in his tent after a kerosene heater fell over.
She finds on her desk the file, concerning the killing of John Hilton in 1990 which Bosch had been given. He Bosch has “returned” it to the department in his own way.. Thompson, Bosch’s original partner and mentor, had taken the file in 2000 and kept if for almost 20 years.
Bosch would like to work the case with Ballard though his new knee is giving him grief. He sees the fire in her that has burned in him all his career to solve murders.
If they do not investigate there is no chance anyone will ever seek justice for Hilton. The case challenges Harry’s principle that “everybody counts or nobody counts”. Does a young ex-con drug user and drifting through life count?
Ballard is surprised when she cannot find anything put in the murder book by Thompson. There is no chronology of his actions nor any record of interviews. There is not even a note. He never “pulled the evidence” by examining the evidence box at Property.
When what makes sense does not solve a crime detectives focus investigations on what does not make sense. I have spent a lot of time on files looking for reasons to the apparently inexplicable. I felt the rise in Ballard and Bosch when they realized Thompson took the file so it was not re-investigated.
And then there is a bombshell. Bosch is suffering from leukemia caused by exposure to stolen cesium in a case 12 years earlier. He looks to half-brother, Mickey Haller, to handle his claim against the hospital for lax security on the cesium. In return he analyzes the evidence in a murder case being defended by Haller. A judge has been murdered and a mentally ill man is the defendant.
In a nifty combination of Bosch finding an evidentiary flaw that establishes doubt far stronger than reasonable doubt and Haller’s skillful use of the information in Court Haller wins. Almost as important the prosecutor derisively refers to him as a “courtroom magician”. The context is immaterial. Haller has gained an advertising slogan he can attribute to the Assistant District Attorney.
When the lead detective, convinced he had the murderer and irritated over the dismissal, refuses to look for the real killer of the judge Bosch feels an obligation to solve the case.
Back on the cold case Ballard finds a reason for the lacklustre investigation that is all too credible.
Once she has the reason she starts to unravel what happened in the murder.
And then the reason is turned sideways by a brilliant twist.
Bosch awkwardly tells Maddy of his diagnosis. I had a catch in my throat and had to pause when I was done the page. Any parent who has had to tell a child of a serious problem with the parent’s health will understand the interplay of emotions between Bosch and Maddy.
Bosch and Ballard solve two cases by persistence and following up on information. Brilliant deduction was not needed. Los Angeles detectives did not care enough to solve either case. For those detectives neither victim was worth counting. Be it a drug addicted ex-con or a respected judge a detective who does not live by Bosch’s motto can find a rationalization to justify an uncaring incomplete investigation.
Connelly’s story telling brilliance is back in The Night Fire. There is even a hint of recognition by Bosch that he compromised his principles in the last book, Dark Sacred Night, by vigilante actions though not enough to stop him from further shady tactics. An unresolved ending, used earlier in the series, would have been better for this book but best sellers need clean conclusions.
Connelly, Michael – (2000) - Void Moon; (2001) - A Darkness More than Night; (2001) - The Concrete Blonde (Third best fiction of 2001); (2002) - Blood Work (The Best); (2002) - City of Bones; (2003) - Lost Light; (2004) - The Narrows; (2005) - The Closers (Tied for 3rd best fiction of 2005); (2005) - The Lincoln Lawyer; (2007) - Echo Park; (2007) - The Overlook; (2008) - The Brass Verdict; (2009) – The Scarecrow; (2009) – Nine Dragons; (2011) - The Reversal; (2011) - The Fifth Witness; (2012) - The Drop; (2012) - Black Echo; (2012) - Harry Bosch: The First 20 Years; (2012) - The Black Box; (2014) - The Gods of Guilt; (2014) - The Bloody Flag Move is Sleazy and Unethical; (2015) - The Burning Room; (2015) - Everybody Counts or Nobody Counts; (2016) - The Crossing; (2016) - Lawyers and Police Shifting Sides; (2017) - The Wrong Side of Goodbye and A Famous Holograph Will; (2017) - Bosch - T.V. - Season One and Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch; (2018) - Two Kinds of Truth; (2019) - Dark Sacred Night and A Protest on Connelly's Use of Vigilante Justice; Hardcover
It sounds as though there are several layers here, Bill, and I"m not surprised. Connelly can tell an involved story very effectively. I like the way his relationship with Maddie has developed, too, so that aspect interests me, even if it is terrible news.ReplyDelete
You make an interesting point about unresolved issues, too. I think it's always a balance between giving the reader closure, if that's the best term, and being realistic about lack of resolution. It's not always easy to know which the best choice is (or, perhaps, better to say, which 'side' to lean on). I'm very glad you enjoyed this, but, honestly, I can't say I'm surprised. Connelly is that good.
Margot: Thanks for the comment. There were multiple stores engaged. I remain impressed by how Connelly creates intriguing and credible new angles involving Harry. With Harry approximately my age I find myself comparing some of our life experiences. Loss comes to all of us.ReplyDelete
I am always meaning to read more of Connelly's books, partly because of your reviews! I will get to them.ReplyDelete
Moira: Thanks for the comment. There is a lot of good reading in Connelly's books. No one has been better at sustaining a series now over 20 books in length.Delete
Bill, I am yet to read a Michael Connelly novel and I intend to start with "The Black Echo", the first in the Harry Bosch series, as part of my ongoing effort to read "first novels" by authors I have never read. I will be reading your review of the book.ReplyDelete
Prashant: Thanks for the comment. Black Echo is a strong mystery. I think it will hook you on Connelly.Delete
This is a good book. Yes. I like Bosch and Ballard working together and him teaching her some things he has learned. Yet she is still independent and smart. She knows to listen to him, but also think on her own, too. I hope there are many more books with the two of them, but am concerned about Bosch's diagnosis.ReplyDelete
I would say that Andrea Camilleri and Donna Leon have sustained series and readers for over 20 books each, he with Salvo Montalbano, and she, with Guido Brunetti.
Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. Bosch works well with strong women and men. Woe to the fellow detective who is just working his shift. I would like to see Ballard's personal life. There is more to life than working and sleeping on the beach with your dog.Delete
I am glad you have enjoyed the two Italian series. I have read only the first book in each series.
Oh, you are missing some good books. Montalbano is smart, hyper, funny, and his team is eccentric.ReplyDelete
And Brunetti is more cerebral, a thinker. He has a terrific family life, with spouse, Paola Falier and two teenage children. He has a very interesting team of co-workers at the questura, talented, friendly and some hostile. But always fascinating plots. Donna Leon is not big on blood and gore. Murders take place off the pace with no bloody descriptions. Then Brunetti visits people to gather information, and he thinks a lot about each person he meets and what they said.
He reads Greek and Roman philosophy and military tactics to relax. Sometimes a class will inspire him on a murder solution. And there is always a social issue involved, but in a subtle way.
I meant 'murders take place off the page." And Brunetti often gets solutions by reading a classic from ancient Greece or Rome. I wish my father had been able to read this series. Several friends read these books.ReplyDelete
If I had to be on a proverbial desert island, I would take Leon's series and Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski's series.
Kathy D.: Thanks for the comments. I should read more of each series. On cruises I have visited Sicily a few times and enjoyed my time on the island. Sharon and I have been to Venice. I enjoyed going out to the islands more than the area around St. Mark's. It has also been some time since I read V.I. I run out of time every year to read all the books I want to read.Delete
I've left Connelly alone for a few years which is a disappointment to myself. I've enjoyed them more often than not. Time to get back to him I think.ReplyDelete
Col: Thanks for the comment. That Connelly is the author I have read the most over the past 20 years probably says best what I think of his books.Delete