My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This third entry in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series begins as a courtroom thriller. Four years before, Harry had killed a man believed to be the Dollmaker, a serial killer of women. Now the man's wife is suing Harry for wrongful death in the case. She is being represented by one of the premier civil rights lawyers in Los Angeles, a woman who is not used to losing. Harry is being represented by a city attorney who is not in the same league with her. His chances do not look good.
At the time Harry had killed the man, it was believed that he was responsible for the murders of eleven women, but at the beginning of his civil trial, evidence becomes known that seems to indicate that two of the later victims may actually have been killed by someone else. And now a third body has been found that follows the pattern of the other murders - a woman who was killed at least two years after the death of the Dollmaker. The inevitable conclusion is that there's a serial killer still out there, one who is copying the work of the Dollmaker.
The action in the court was fascinating and I thought Connelly was particularly adept at his sketching of the characters and personalities of the various people who were involved. The court case takes up about three-fourths of the book, during which Harry's attention is divided between what is happening there and the investigation of the newly discovered serial killings. The whole purpose of his life is to put bad guys away and so he is obsessed with this new investigation, to the point of giving very little concern or attention to the outcome of his trial.
In the latter part of the book, both sides in the case have rested and Harry is able to join the task force investigating the killings full time. Then the book's action begins to pick up speed.
Throughout all of this, we get to learn a bit more of Bosch's back story and also his present relationship with Sylvia, the widow of a cop whose alleged suicide he had investigated in the last book. That relationship has intensified and it seems that Sylvia may be a keeper. If Harry can manage to keep from pushing her away.
Finding the copycat killer, known as the Follower, is a daunting task. There are so many possible suspects. The killer has to have been someone with intimate knowledge of the Dollmaker murders. Could it be a cop? Someone from the Medical Examiner's office? A reporter who wrote about the cases? A psychologist who studied the cases and advised the police, helping to create a profile of the potential murderer?
In addition to the overwhelming number of possible suspects, there is the fact that time has passed while the perpetrator went undetected. Time that may have destroyed clues. It's impossible to even know how many victims there might be. Are there more than three?
Harry puts his analytical mind to finding answers to all of these questions and, relatively soon, comes up with someone who fits the profile and who just might be their killer. The reader soon suspects that he is barking up the wrong tree and, through the skillful use of various red herrings, we are led to believe that we have solved the case and that we know the true murderer. But it turns out we are just as misled as Harry, and the ending, after another particularly brutal killing, comes as a surprise.
I felt the plotting and the character development in The Concrete Blonde were especially strong, more so than in the two previous books. This has to be my favorite in the series so far.
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