Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly: A review

The Last Coyote (Harry Bosch, #4)The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

LAPD detective Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch is on involuntary leave from his job. His life is in a shambles. He's living on the edge. Quite literally. His home in the hills above Los Angeles has been severely damaged by the most recent earthquake and threatens to slide into the ravine below. It has been condemned as uninhabitable and put on the list for demolition, but Harry continues to live in it, illegally, and even spends his free time making repairs.

How did he come to be placed on involuntary leave? It seems that he attacked his commanding officer, the odious Lieutenant Pounds ("Ninety-eight") that we've met in previous Harry Bosch novels. He's been ordered to have a psychiatric evaluation before he can be cleared to return to duty. He reluctantly meets three times a week with a therapist to talk about his issues.

And what are his issues? Unresolved anger and inability to sustain a relationship seem to be big ones. His girlfriend has recently left him and is now in Venice, Italy. He's drinking way too much. He's basically rude and hostile to everyone he comes in contact with, so it's pretty easy to understand why he's not exactly flavor of the month among his colleagues and acquaintances. At least in this book, we get more of the backstory of just what has made him that way.

The one area of his life where he is truly competent and feels in control is his job. It is much more than a job to him. It is his identity, who he is. And now that has been taken away from him.  

His enforced absence from detective work wears on him and he arrives at a solution. He will do an independent investigation of a very, very cold case - the murder of his mother in 1961. Harry was eleven years old.

Reviewing the files and everything that is known about the case, Harry concludes that not much effort was put into solving it. Was that because she was a prostitute? Or was it because she was a prostitute who had ties to some political heavy hitters and exposing those ties would have been inconvenient for those men? Harry determines to find out and his investigation will take him into his own past and to far-flung parts of the country - from Las Vegas to Florida.

While he is on his weekend trip to Florida, the unthinkable happens back in Los Angeles - Lt. Pounds is kidnapped and tortured by his abductors until his heart gives out. His body is found stuffed into the trunk of his vehicle. Harry becomes an immediate suspect, but his fortuitous trip out of town gives him an alibi.

But he begins to suspect that Pounds' murder might be related to the unauthorized investigation he is conducting because he had used Pounds' name on a number of occasions. Is he indirectly responsible for a colleague's horrible death? Another subject to discuss with his therapist.

This is a very dark book and Harry is presented as a not very attractive character. He is supposed to be a twenty year veteran of the police force but he is so filled with anger and antagonism toward anyone in authority and even his peers that it is very hard to understand how he would have made it for twenty years without being kicked out or shot. I guess the answer lies in that one area of competence - detecting. Perhaps his value for that skill outweighs the negatives.

While I did enjoy the book - after all, Michael Connelly is a very good writer - there were things about it that bothered me. That whole interlude in Florida with the woman that he meets and is attracted to, for example. It just seemed out of place and without purpose. Maybe the purpose was just to provide Harry with an alibi, but it seems like that could have been done with the former LAPD detective/now fishing guide who he also spent time with. Maybe Connelly just wanted to give Harry a little fun in the virtually unrelieved darkness of this tale.

And then, there is this sentence in Chapter 31:
"Harry, why don't you ride with Earl and I?" Irving said.
"with...I"? Really, Michael Connelly? Et tu?

Who taught you basic grammar? The objective pronoun is me. Me! ME!!!

The misuse of I for me is absolutely my pet peeve in modern language usage. When I hear it spoken (which is often), it makes me want to wash out my ears. When I see it in print, especially having been used by a favorite author, it makes me want to tear my hair out by the roots. And this book was published in 1995, which means it was written in the early 1990s, which makes the I for me thing not just a 2000s phenomenon.

Depressing. I fear civilization as we know it is doomed.  





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