I have been a big, big fan of Michael Connelly’s best-selling Harry Bosch detective procedural novels since the first one, the Edgar-Award-winning The Black Echo, burst on the scene in 1992. Bosch is an LAPD detective whose service as a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War is never far from his consciousness. That’s especially true in The Black Echo, in which Bosch finds the body of a war buddy in a storm drain and spends too much time underground dealing with present-day criminals and war-time demons.
There are fewer flashbacks and references to Bosch’s Vietnam War tour of duty in the subsequent books. But the war nevertheless is a part of Harry Bosch. Connelly, a former Los Angeles Times police reporter, always includes at least one or two mentions of Bosch’s tunnel rat days in each of the compulsively readable Bosch novels, which he also fills with clever plot twists as Bosch uses his brains and experience to ferret out murderers and other bad people. The novels all contain dark moments for Bosch and those near and dear to him. He always prevails, but often at great personal and psychic cost.
In the latest, The Drop (Little Brown, 388 pp., $27.99), Connelly is at the top of his game. The writing is crisp. The words and actions flow. The plots—there are two main ones—are believable and compelling. Bosch is at the center in all of his conflicted glory. He’s grumpy but kind; he’s a rule breaker but an ethical straight shooter; he loves the company of women but specializes in disastrous relationships with the opposite sex. And he is one hell of a murder detective.
The plots involve a cold-case murder of a young woman and the death of the son of a Los Angeles City Councilman. Bosch faces his usual hurdles with politically motivated superiors, some less-than-sterling cops, and a handful of ruthless evildoers.
His war experiences come into play only twice, and only briefly. But both are telling. In one scene, involving a woman he is dating, he undergoes a strong sense memory of rotting fish from his tunnel rat days. In the other he has a flashback to the tunnels after making a gruesome discovery as he’s investigating a mass murderer/child molester.
Bosch “closed his eyes and remembered another time when he was in a place of death,” Connelly writes, “huddled in a tunnel and far from home. He was really just a boy then and he was scared and trying to control his breathing. That was the key. Control your breathing.”
If you want a gritty, entertaining, rapid-reading detective novel, you cannot go wrong with The Drop—or, for that matter with any of the other sixteen Harry Bosch novels, going back to The Black Echo.