Michael Connelly – “The Black Box”

Black Box“No hobby cases, Harry.”

That’s the message from Cliff O’Toole, the new lieutenant heading up the Open-Unsolved Unit. O’Toole is not well liked. In short order, he has “garnered not one but two nicknames with negative connotations.”

O’Toole is riding Bosch because Bosch seems overly fixated on a murder case that started during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, twenty years ago.

Says O’Toole: “You are the worst kind of police officer, Bosch. You are arrogant, you are a bully, and you think the laws and regulations simply don’t apply to you. I’m not the first to attempt to rid this department of you. But I will be the last.”

Bosch, of course, put the T in tenacious and he’ll even go ahead and take a ‘vacation’ to pursue a lead. So we’re not too concerned with O’Toole’s threats. Neither is Bosch.

Harry Bosch has a bullet casing—a bullet casing found near the body of a female photojournalist who was murdered in an alley and now, given the intervening two decades, Bosch can put it under more scrutiny with new technology at his disposal. “The advent of technological applications to evidence and crime solving had led to reassessments of old unsolved crimes everywhere on the planet.”

And he has personal motivations—Bosch had been one of the cops to find the body during the riots.

“The Black Box” takes off from there. Bosch struggles for space and freedom to pursue his instincts against the grain of police bureaucracy. Bosch follows every single scrap of evidence like the master sleuth we admire, blowing through apparent dead ends and seeing things that others have not.

Like the black box found after a plane crash, Bosch is pursuing the “one thing that brings it all together and makes sense of things. You find it and you’re gold.”

For the most part, “The Black Box” works. Bosch follows the victim’s past and starts making links to a moment on a cruise ship that was used for R & R for soldiers in the Gulf War.

For me, several things didn’t quite click. I thought O’Toole’s anger at Bosch was overblown. Bosch’s alleged crimes within department rules seemed relatively minor. Yes, he wandered slightly outside of protocol, but his steps didn’t seem to justify putting a fellow cop out on the street to trail Bosch—a cop who plays a critical role in coming to Bosch’s aid at the end. And once Bosch follows his leads up to central California, I had the feeling that Connelly wanted Harry Bosch to teach Jack Reacher a thing or two about toughness and guile. The Hollywood-esque ending felt a bit over-the-top.

Harry Bosch is one of the best at breaking down a case, figuring things out, asking questions, pursuing every angle and, of course, never giving up. He’s also a rogue cop, albeit a rogue with heart. “The Black Box” is a good read but I wish the climax had its feet as firmly on the ground as the first four-fifths of the story.

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One response to “Michael Connelly – “The Black Box”

  1. “The Hollywood-esque ending felt a bit over-the-top.”
    But it had a HELICOPTER!

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