Book Notes: Harry Bosch is on ‘The Burning Room’ case
Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch has a year to go before retirement from his job as cold case homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.
And Bosch has traversed a long, grueling road from the orphaned son of a murdered prostitute to tunnel rat in Vietnam to stubbornly defiant, gifted detective now at the close of his rocky but indisputably brilliant career.
By now he’s wiser and has better control of his reflexive dislike for authority. But Bosch is still the risk-taker; the lover of jazz, women and solitude; the quintessential embattled police detective — and rarely more so than in Michael Connelly’s latest, “The Burning Room,” in his heralded Hieronymus Bosch crime series.
How many times have readers asked themselves, “How is Harry going to get himself out of this mess?” Well, here we go again.
Bosch is the perfect choice to mentor Lucia Soto, a smart and driven young detective with some grisly secrets in her own past. Now Bosch has two strong and determined women in his life — Soto and his daughter, Maddie, who also wants to become a police officer. These likable women are a lot like Bosch, though lacking the worst of the inner angst.
Soto and Bosch are assigned an unusual cold case involving an unsolved shooting that occurred in Mariachi Plaza a decade earlier. But mariachi guitarist Orlando Merced, the victim, lives 10 years before he dies of complications from the bullet lodged in his spine.
Bosch and Soto get involved when the crime is reclassified as a murder. With the help of some high-tech talent from the forensic arm of the police department, they quickly learn that Merced was not the intended victim.
As is often the case in Bosch’s detection, the clues take him right into the dangerous den of graft, corruption and conspiracy — politics. Whatever sharp work he and Soto do is blunted by the fact that some of those involved wield a lot of power.
Bosch takes on a second and third cold case, simultaneously, when he realizes his partner is looking into a fire at Bonnie Brae Arms that killed nine people, most of them children in an unregistered day care center. It turns out Soto was one of the children who survived, and she is intent on finding out what happened that day.
When Bosch discovers that a check-cashing store three blocks away is robbed right after the fire alarms sound, he connects the dots. The fire was most likely intended as a tactical diversion.
These two new cold cases take on a greater urgency than Bosch and Soto’s original assignment.
The fire and robbery were big stories at the time and both remain unsolved. Besides teaching Soto the ins and outs of cold-case crime solving, Bosch has to pay attention to her psychology. Whoever was responsible for the fire at Bonnie Brae killed her dear childhood friends and traumatized her. How will she handle confronting the arsonist? In a Harry Bosch novel, she most certainly will.
There are, in fact, numerous storylines for readers to worry over, from Soto’s stability to Bosch’s handling of his imminent retirement and his seemingly precarious standing at the LAPD to all the leads in the three cold cases.
For readers, Bosch’s demons figure prominently. Despite his savvy and his keen instincts, Bosch still gets blind-sided in big, bad ways. His life becomes a mystery we must track, right alongside the unsolved cases that Bosch painstakingly unravels, one old and fragile thread at a time.
Rae Padilla Francoeur’s memoir, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” is available online or in some bookstores. Write her at email@example.com. Read her blog at freefallrae.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter at @RaeAF.
“The Burning Room” By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014. 388 pages. $28.