Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: The Drop by Michael Connelly

The Drop
Michael Connelly

     Michael Connelly is a former “Los Angeles Times” crime reporter who writes first rate mysteries, most of which are set in Southern California.  He is very prolific, having written several stand-alone novels (Bloodwork, Chasing the Dime, The Poet), five more books in a series featuring an eccentric defense lawyer named Mickey Haller (starting with The Lincoln Lawyer) and seventeen novels in a series featuring LAPD detective Harry Bosch.  The Drop is the latest in the Bosch series. 
      This novel will not disappoint Connelly fans as it feature two intricate plots, takes us further into the self-righteous mind of Detective Bosch and exposes more of the intricacies of big city politics.  Bosch is facing several personal dilemmas.  First he is adapting to the role of single father.  His fifteen year old daughter Maddie is now living with him and this adds another layer of responsibility to his already crowded plate.  Series readers will know why Maddie is now living with Harry having read the 15th book in the series, 2009’s Nine Dragons.  Harry is also facing the DROP, a police acronym for a delayed retirement option plan.  His time on the force is limited and he wants to catch as many bad guys as he can before he is put out to pasture.
     Harry is working with a new partner, an Asian-American named David Chu.  Harry Bosch is notoriously difficult on new partners, preferring to work solo and having had many partners shot over the years.  They are investigators in the Cold Case Unit and receive a new case prompted by a DNA match.  Blood found on the neck of a rape and murder victim from 1989 was run through the DNA data bank and a match is found with a convicted child molester and sex offender.  The problem is that the person so identified is only 29 years old which would have made him eight at the time of the crime.  Bosch and Chu must investigate to discover whether this person was indeed involved in the crime at such a young age or whether there was a mix-up in the crime lab. 
     On the same day that they receive the cold case investigation, a presumed suicide victim is found at the Chateau Marmont, a glamorous Hollywood hotel notoriously known as the site of comedian John Belushi’s death.  The victim is an attorney and son of a city councilman.  The councilman, Irving Irvin (again, familiar to long-time readers from previous Bosch books) is a former policeman who requests that Bosch head the investigation into his son’s death.  Bosch and Irvin go way back and their relationship has been adversarial at best.  Bosch is more than a bit perplexed as to why Irving asked for him to lead the official investigation into his son’s death.
     What follows is an intricate police procedural as Chu and Bosch chase down leads on both cases.  The cases remain completely distinct from each other and both investigations have false starts and red herrings.  The resolutions to both cases vex Detective Bosch, one because he fails to avert a disaster he should have seen coming and the second because he realizes he was used as a pawn in what he terms “high jingo”, or backstabbing high level city politics.
      Michael Connelly again displays his encyclopedic knowledge of Los Angeles:  its history, geography and sociology.  His settings and descriptions are intricately authentic and add a tremendous amount of realism to this novel as well as all of his previous ones.
     This is a great summer and beach book and keeps the reader entertained.  Despite having two distinctly different plot lines going at the same time, the author manages to balance them both and, if anything, the two plots makes the book move along at a very rapid pace.  You don’t have to be familiar with previous Connelly works to enjoy The Drop, but familiarity with Bosch and his previous exploits makes the story much more interesting.  Those of us who have “known” Bosch since he was a young Viet Nam war veteran starting on the LAPD (The Black Echo) it is interesting to see him age and adapt to the new technologies and investigative techniques.  Harry is older, wiser and even more cynical as the years go by, but he still works with uncompromising diligence and integrity on every case, including both of these.  It is interesting to see him parent his daughter Maddie.  Harry is at once overly protective and predictably indulgent.   In The Drop she declares her interest in becoming a police officer.  Bosch has trains her in marksmanship and Maddie is already very competent in regional shooting competitions.  Could this be where the series is heading?  I can’t wait to find out.  

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