Follow the gun, is what it's all about.
Harry Bosch, LAPD detective working in the Open Unsolved Unit, believes that every case has a "black box" -- a hard-to-find element that brings a certain understanding and helps explain what happened and why. It's all the more important in cold cases, such as the one Bosch works on in this 18th novel in Michael Connelly's superb series.
The author's imagination is still fresh, as is the human insight and intelligence that his hero brings to a killing that took place in 1992, surely not by coincidence the 20th anniversary of the first time Harry Bosch appeared in print.
"THE BLACK BOX"
By Michael Connelly
Little, Brown ($27.99).
1992 was the year of the infamous Los Angeles riots, the year of Rodney King, and a young, inexperienced Bosch was on the scene when a Danish journalist was found shot in the head, apparently incidental damage from the mayhem. Her death stood out, in part because she was one of the few white bystanders, but with all the confusion, Anneke Jespersen's file was swept under the rug. One of the loose ends is a 9mm brass shell casing found on the scene. The murder weapon never turned up.
A present-day investigation leads Bosch to find that the gun does exist, or at least that its path may be followed for some years after Jespersen's murder. The trail goes back to the Gulf war of 1991, and ahead to the present day.
Despite opposition from a hostile superior officer (Lieutenant O'Toole), and personal problems with his teenaged daughter, Bosch presses ahead with his case (and, as expected, ultimately solves it). The issues with O'Toole and with Bosch's daughter are cliched, as is the near-fatal situation in which Bosch finds himself in the last part of the book. Those elements fail to ring true, but the moment when Bosch realizes he has found the "black box" is genuinely exciting and convincing.
"The Black Box" does not quite maintain the level of the best previous Bosch novels, nor of the two that feature his marvelous "Lincoln Lawyer." However, Michael Connelly is never less than a total pro, and the present tale moves swiftly and leaves the reader happily anticipating the next adventure.
Robert Croan is a Post-Gazette senior editor.