Review: The Black Box — Michael Connelly

Read: 28
To Go: 72

Book List:
21. The First Deadly Sin — Lawrence Sanders
22. Exclusive — Sandra Brown
23. White Hot — Sandra Brown
24. The Black Ice — Michael Connelly
25. The Concrete Blonde — Michael Connelly
26. The Retreat — David Bergen
27. Stranglehold — Robert Rotenberg
28. The Black Box — Michael Connelly


Finished reading: June 2, 2013

Reading  The Black Box, Michael Connelly’s 19th Harry Bosch book, finally brought me up to speed with the series. I have to admit, I feel very proud of having read the entire set (albeit out of order). But The Black Box is particularly special, because it was released on the 20th anniversary of Harry Bosch (a fun fact: the series is as old as I am). And for people in Los Angeles, there was another 20-year anniversary being marked in 2012.

Twenty years after the release of the first Bosch novel, Connelly takes readers back to that very year—a particularly tumultuous one for L.A., as 1992 marked the Rodney King riots. In The Black Box, Harry Bosch catches an open-unsolved case that transports him back to the chaos of the riots, and a murder that stuck with him for two decades. Twenty years younger, Bosch found a foreign journalist, Anneke Jespersen, shot to death in a back-alley, and barely even got a feel for the crime scene before he and his partner were called out to the next murder. He gets a second chance when the Open-Unsolved Unit is asked to tie up unfinished cases from the riots, and Anneke Jespersen’s lands on his desk. He catches a lucky break, and the investigation takes him from the gangs of L.A. to Desert Storm and a small northern town where a quartet of men hold sway—and 20 years’ worth of secrets.

As much as I enjoy Michael Connelly novels, finding anything new to say about The Black Box that I haven’t already said about other Bosch mysteries has kept me from writing this review for a while. Anneke Jespersen’s execution-style shooting, incongruous with the madness of the L.A. riots, makes for an interesting cold case for Bosch to solve. The final twist, revealing what happened Jespersen and why she was killed, was gut-wrenching. But that’s nothing new. What was new for me was how frustrated I felt by the developments in Bosch’s personal life.

The last Bosch book I read before The Black Box was The Concrete Blonde, where the love interest was the brilliant Sylvia Moore. Jumping forward almost two decades, Bosch is romantically paired with Dr. Hannah Stone (introduced in The Drop). Comparing the two, Hannah comes up short. And even against past romantic interests, who didn’t stick around longer than one book, Hannah feels like a one-note character who doesn’t seem to gel with Bosch or add anything to the quality of the book. She and her imprisoned son tie into the secondary conflict—an IAD complaint filed against Bosch—in a surprising way, but even that wasn’t enough to make her interesting. It was strongly implied that she’ll be written out soon, and I have to admit I’m a little relieved.

On the note of Connelly’s background characters, I was happy to see Detective David Chu return (also from The Drop), and would like to read more about the fair-minded IAD officer Connelly introduced in The Black Box (whose name I can’t remember because I don’t have the book with me).

A final thought: now that I’m up to speed with all of Connelly’s ongoing series, I feel like there’s a weird void in my life. I guess I’m going to have to find new mystery authors to read while I wait for his next novel, The Gods of Guilt, to come out.

Next book: Easy Money — Jens Lapidus

– Kelsey


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