Monday, April 3, 2017

The Black Box by Michael Connelly: A review

Time for another Harry Bosch mystery.

The Black Box is the eighteenth book in the series. I'm finally closing in on the end, or at least on the most recent entry. The unique thing about this series has been the unwavering quality of the writing. Connelly just keeps on getting better.

Bosch is still with the Open-Unsolved Unit and, in this one, he gets to take another look at a murder that he originally started the investigation on back when it happened in 1992. It's a murder that he didn't get a chance to solve and so it has haunted him for twenty years.

In the spring of 1992, Los Angeles was in turmoil after the trial of the police officers who beat Rodney King. Riots broke out after the acquittal of the officers and many people were injured or killed. One of those killed was a young photo-journalist from Denmark named Anneke Jespersen. It was never determined why she was in the area at the time or what she was doing. Was her killing simply an incidental occurrence of the violence that was happening on the streets? Or was she specifically targeted? After Bosch and his partner were first on the scene at the murder, the investigation was handed off to a task force and Bosch never got to follow up.

Fast forward twenty years. It is 2012 and suddenly Harry has another chance at this case when the gun that was used to kill Jespersen is used in a new crime. Her case is reopened and Harry and his current partner, David Chu, are assigned to it.

After twenty years, the events of a particular night in 1992 are exceedingly murky. Some of the people who might be able to shed light on them are now dead, evidence is unavailable or else the chain of evidence cannot be proven, and, as usual, Bosch has to fight the bureaucracy that is more interested in statistics and making the department look good than in the actual solving of crimes.

But giving Harry Bosch a murder to solve is like giving a bulldog a bone - he's not going to give it up. He persists in spite of all obstacles and finally finds a connection between the National Guard unit that was on duty in the area where the photo-journalist was killed and Jespersen's past as a war correspondent during the Gulf War. That same unit had been present on a ship for rest and recuperation at the same time that Jespersen was on the ship during the war. 

Harry doggedly traces Jespersen's travel after she was on that ship and begins to suspect that she was investigating war crimes. It seems that perhaps her killing was not a random event during a riot but that she was actually the specific target of the killer.

It's a real pleasure watching Harry as he puts facts together and finally comes up with a working theory of what happened on the night of the murder which we know he will pursue to its conclusion. At the same time, he is struggling with the perils of being father to a teenage daughter, a daughter who has decided that she, too, wants a career with the police. And he has a relationship with a new woman which looks promising but is also fraught with tension.

In the end, Harry puts himself and his career at risk in order to find justice for the murdered woman that he feels he failed twenty years before. Knowing his dedication to the murder victims whose cases he works, we wouldn't expect anything less.    

My rating: 4 of 5 stars     

6 comments:

  1. Another intriguing case for the fearless detective. :-)

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    1. It was intriguing, a mystery that moved right along and kept me guessing.

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  2. This series is one of my favorites, and I agree that Connelly never disappoints. My only problem is that I've read them out of order, so I can never remember which of the earlier ones I've read and which I haven't. I think I've read this one, but now I'm not so sure:)

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    1. Well, I guess there are some advantages to being an OCD reader. I HAVE to read them in order so I always know where I am.

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  3. How exciting that you are closing in on completing Connelly. Luckily you won't have long to wait for a new one when you finish because he is always releasing new ones.

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    1. It's what persistence in reading it for the last twenty years will do for you!

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