For some years now , I’ve felt that Michael Connelly is the top mystery writer in America. I first encountered his writing when I read The Black Ice (1993), the second Harry Bosch novel, almost two decades ago. I liked it so much that I went back and read Harry’s début appearance , The Black Echo ( 1992) . That hooked me ;I’ve read every Harry Bosch novel since . The Drop is the eighteenth in the Harry Bosch series and it has Michael Connelly at the top of his form.
As per the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) , Harry Bosch, now 60, has been given a three-year extension before he must retire from the LAPD. He now works in the Open-Unsolved Unit which investigates cold cases from the past. Facing the impending end of his detective career only makes Bosch all the more determined to solve as many murder cases as he can. Still , he is surprised when not one but two cases are assigned to him and his partner, David Chu.In one , a drop of blood from a 1989 rape and murder has been tested with new methods which were not available at the time . The DNA results indicate that the blood is that of a convicted pedophile and rapist but this , on the face of it , is impossible. The suspect is now only 29 which means that he was only eight years old at the time of the murder. Harry and his partner have barely been assigned the case when they are pulled off it to investigate the apparent suicide of a man who jumped to his death from the seventh floor of the Chateau Marmont. The case is fraught with peril because the jumper is George Irving , the only son of Irvin Irving , now a Councilman but previously a deputy chief in the LAPD and Harry’s nemesis. In spite of the bad blood between them , the Councilman has demanded that Harry be assigned to the case because he wants answers and he knows that Harry will find them , come what may.
Harry and his partner work both cases and make a chilling discovery ; a sadistic serial killer has been operating , undetected, in LA for more than two decades. The Irvin suicide which appeared an open and shut case also has some startling twists and turns . All the while Harry and his partner have to traverse a political minefield as Irvin Irving , who is not a man to be crossed, appears to be involved in a sleazy influence peddling conspiracy. Needless to say , Harry Bosch gets to the bottom of both cases with dogged police work coupled with flashes of pure genius but how he does it makes for an absorbing police procedural. By now , mystery fans are familiar with Michael Connelly’s work and this ranks as one of his best efforts.
As widely acclaimed as the Harry Bosch novels are , none of them have been made into movies . This seems surprising until one realizes that they do not translate well onto the silver screen. Bosch is dedicated , almost obsessed with his work and while his backstory is interesting , his personal life is not absorbing. He is a widower, bringing up a precocious daughter and his work precludes any lasting relationships . The crimes he solves are sordid and horrifying and there are no car chases and very few shootouts. This is no good at the box office . A parallel can be drawn with Henning Mankell’s series of police procedurals featuring Kurt Wallender ; the books were great but the TV series starring Kenneth Branagh as Wallender was ho-hum.
Two other Michael Connelly novels have been made into films. One , Blood Work ( 2002),produced and directed by Clint Eastwood was about a retired FBI agent, Terry McCaleb, who is recovering after receiving a heart transplant . He is visited by a woman whose heart he received and she asks him to help solve her sister’s murder.Cint Eastwood plays Terry McCaleb and the movie was pretty good but not especially memorable . The other was The Lincoln Lawyer ( 2011) featuring the cynical lawyer / hustler Mickey Haller ( Matthew McConaughey) whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln limousine . The cast had several well-known actors including Marisa Tomei, William H.Macy and Ryan Philippe. The plot is ingenious and the story moves along at a good clip.Matthew McConaughey will make female hearts flutter though he seems entirely too young and goodlooking to play the Mickey Haller described in the book.
It seems to me that authors generally have only one great series of books in them . When they write a series with another protagonist , it is never as good as the first. In the case of Michael Connelly , in addition to the Harry Bosch series , he also writes about Mickey Haller ( 5 books as of now) plus stand alone novels featuring Terry McCaleb , the gambler Cassie Black, and reporter Jack McEvoy. While all of them are good or better , none approaches the level of the Harry Bosch novels. Perhaps it is because Connelly has spent so much time , so many years developing the Harry Bosch character and has been able to get into his skin so thoroughly that he is not as convincing when he writes about other protagonists.
It’s going to be a long wait until Harry’s next appearance The Black Box , due November 2012.