the Goliard

May 2003

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[by Atwater - The New Bookwoman]

Lost Light 
 by Michael Connelly

Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 2003

I never liked hard-boiled fiction until I was stranded at an airport one day with several hours before I could board my next flight. For lack of anything else to do I happened upon the paperback shelf and grabbed A Darkness More than Night by Michael Connelly, choosing it over others (by writers such as Stuart Woods) based on the description included on the back cover. The story, in which both of Connelly's best-known characters, Terry McCaleb and Harry Bosch work together to solve a confusing serial-killer case, was good, certainly worthy of my time, and had also saved me from boredom. But the work also introduced me to one of the most intriguing fictional characters of the crime-story/detective genre, Detective Hieronymous Bosch. 

Since then I have read every book by Connelly (I've been flying a lot lately) and have found his narratives to be vibrant, his descriptions of Los Angeles and his characters to be entertaining, and have most enjoyed the intertextuality of his works. Connelly's characters frequently allude to and even quote lines from mystery novels by two of the most important writers of the genre, its inventor, Poe, and its master of LA crime fiction, Raymond Chandler. The very title A Darkness More than Night is a line taken from Chandler's own answer to the popularity of hard-boiled fiction. I also enjoy the references to jazz and to art. Detective Bosch's namesake was the medieval European painter whose haunting works such as the Garden of Earthly Delights expose and ridicule the folly of humanity. Much like the painter, Bosch himself, a 20-some-year veteran of Hollywood Homicide has observed the consequences of each of the seven deadly sins as he solves his cases. His background, the difficulties he's encountered both in Vietnam and in Los Angeles, as well as the personal losses he's suffered have hardened him, leaving him questioning his own purpose of being. 

At the end of the previous installment, City of Bones, Bosch "pulled the pin," retiring from the force shortly after being informed that he had earned what he had thought he wanted since his fictional debut, his promotion (and return) to Robbery-Homicide Division in Los Angeles. Bosch had served in RHD before but was demoted when he fatally shot an unarmed serial killer who had reached under a pillow not for a weapon but for a hairpiece. Though he shot the right man, the very image-conscious and reputation-scarred, post-Rodney King LAPD had blacklisted him since he had been hit with civil suits and Internal Affairs investigations and faced general distrust on the part of his coworkers and superiors. Rather than return to the eye of the hurricane, Bosch leaves the force with no real plan other than perhaps taking a stab at finding happiness, which leaves his readers wondering what he is to do next. 

Lost Light picks up eight months after Bosch has left the force and adds several new dimensions to the story. The most obvious and effective one is that Bosch becomes his own narrator. In all previous novels Bosch is filtered through an omniscient narrator but now we see a more vibrant character, one whose thoughts belie the outward image and whose own fears, philosophies, strategies and dreams are communicated more clearly. While Connelly adds this new dimension, he subtracts much of the "cop" dimension, replacing it instead with Bosch's "private investigator-like" instincts. Bosch's former partners, Rider and Edgar have only small appearances in Bosch's life, as does anything to do with the LAPD. As a retiree, Bosch is taking on new projects, such as learning to play jazz saxophone, visiting old friends and trying to solve a "cold" case of his that disturbed him before it was reassigned to RHD, where it remains unsolved since the two investigators in charge of the case were shot down in a bar robbery shortly after it was put in their lap. The unsolved homicide continues to haunt Bosch and he determines that he must solve the murder on his own. His attempts to do so are met with several obstacles such as the fact that the murder happened four years ago and is believed linked to another case the FBI is actively pursuing, using their newly-acquired power since 9/11 to search and seize any and all information (and/or persons) that may threaten the national security. Bosch must rely on his experience and his inventiveness in order to solve a complex case involving very dangerous men on both sides of the law. As he struggles with the case he also reopens his feelings regarding his ex-wife, Eleanor Wish, who makes her living playing poker in Vegas and though she appears interested in him once more she has not tried to contact Harry in three years and in Bosch's mind clearly is keeping secrets from him. The predicaments in which our detective finds himself and his true discovery of what he wants to do with the rest of his life make for an edge-of-the-seat read.


Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved.