Friday, June 19, 2020

Review of The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly (1994, St Martin’s Paperbacks)

It’s four years after Harry Bosch shot dead Norman Church, a serial killer named The Dollmaker. Now he’s on trial for his unlawful death, Church’s wife seeking compensation from the LAPD. On the opening day of proceedings a new body is discovered under the floor in a building burned out in the Rodney King riots. It appears to be another victim of The Dollmaker, but the time of death is seemingly two years ago. It’s not just Honey Chandler, the widow’s savvy lawyer, who is trying to sink Bosch. As the trial unfolds, Bosch investigates the new murder, aware that there are probably more victims out there and the second killer will strike again, and unsure who to trust given whoever the new murderer is must be in or close to the original investigative team.

The Concrete Blonde is the third book in the long running Harry Bosch series. I first read over twenty years ago and it's as good as I remember it to be. Connelly weaves together a well plotted police procedural with a feisty courtroom drama. Bosch is on trial for shooting dead an unarmed man, Norman Church, believed to be the serial killer, The Dollmaker. On the opening day of the trial another body is discovered that appears to be a victim of The Dollmaker, but was murdered after Church’s death. The new body is clearly designed to muddy waters, sink Bosch, and sow distrust in the police, who know that the new killer must have had insider knowledge and might be one of their colleagues. The pressure mounting on Bosch is also placing his current relationship under severe strain. Connelly draws on his experience as a veteran police and courts reporter for the LA Times to produce a highly compelling, tense, and expertly plotted tale. There isn’t a single element out of place and the twists and turns keep coming. Interestingly, given present protests against policing culture and methods, there is a strong critical analysis of the police running through the book, written not long after the Rodney King riots; Connelly describing the force as a paramilitary organization infected with political bacteria. Bosch is part of that culture, while he also wages war on the worst of crimes.

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