Michael Connelly has hit yet another literary home run with Desert Star (Little Brown, 400 pp. $29), the prolific, bestselling novelist’s just-released detective procedural/thriller.
This is Connelly’s fourth novel co-starring Harry Bosch, who served as a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War and recently retired as an L.A. Police Department homicide detective, and current LAPD robbery/homicide detective Renee Ballard.
Last year’s Bosch-Ballard, The Dark Hours, was Ballard-centric; in Desert Star Connelly makes Harry the star — which is great news for those of us who have read and relished the seventeen Harry Bosch detectives Connelly has produced since the brilliant, Vietnam War-flashback-heavy The Black Echo came out in 1992.
Desert Star, like all the other Connelly novels, is a taut, plot-twisting, page turner set mostly in Los Angeles. This time Bosch volunteers (at Ballard’s invitation) to work for free with her cold case team on two heinous murder cases. One of them—the murder of a family of four, including two young children—has festered in Bosch’s psyche for years. The other is forced upon Ballard’s department for internal LAPD reasons, mainly because it involves the murder of the daughter of an influential city councilman.
Connelly shows off his best writing chops in this dialogue-heavy, fast-moving tale filled with inside baseball policing details he gleaned during his years as a crime reporter for The Los Angeles Times. Plus, Desert Star—the title refers to a type of flowering plant that blooms in the desert—has more references to Harry’s Vietnam War experiences than any of the recent Bosch books.
The war comes up several times in conversations with Ballard, and when Harry interacts with a Nam vet bartender. The barkeep turns out to have served with the 1st Battalion/Ninth Marines, AKA “The Walking Dead.” Bosch tells the Marine that he served in the Army, in the 1st Infantry Division, and the barkeep deduces Harry was a tunnel rat. ‘
“Those tunnels, man,” he says, “what a fucked up place.”
It’s not giving anything away to say that both cases get solved, and Harry has the leading role in both, using his brains, experience, and an obsessively risky MO to track down the family killer.
If you love a great detective yarn with flawed but morally upright and tenacious good guys (and gals) and evil bad guys who eventually get their due, you won’t be let down by Michael Connelly’s Desert Star.
The official Michael Connelly website is michaelconnelly.com