I set a course to read all the Bosch books by Michael Connelly this summer. Well, I didn’t quite make it before fall set in but, except for the newest book, which is not available yet, I finished all of them. I did not review each book as I finished it because I decided to classify them as recreational reading, but characters like Bosch deserve a few words. Harry or Hieronymus Bosch is a police detective in the homicide division when Connelly’s series begins. He has a sad past as he was born to a single mother who did not share the name of his father with him. They lived in run-down apartments in poor neighborhoods and his mother sometimes prostituted herself to earn enough money to live. She was found murdered in an alley; a victim of a crime Bosch eventually solves. Bosch is sent to a home for orphaned children, a place that locked defiant children away in a dark cubbyhole in a time when there were no laws about such abuse. Bosch was a defiant child and a frequent runaway.
But Bosch developed an anathema to the evil side of people, people whose acts create the dark corners of our society, its dark hidden alleys, and the twisted actions of those who are damaged. So, despite Bosch’s obvious issues with authority and his contempt for the politics of policing he is a detective who doesn’t quit. He breaks rules only if they prevent him from pursuing a case using rules he deems trivial. If his current LT (Lieutenant) happens to be a stickler for rules or in cahoots with the big wigs on the tenth floor, he is likely to be suspended once he solves a case (sometimes even before he solves the case). In some of the Bosch books he is a private detective. In later books he works to solve cold cases or volunteers at the San Fernando police department, gets hired there, gets suspended from there and finally retires for good, but still mentors Renee Ballard, a smart young policewoman.
Bosch’s house, where he spends far too little time, is an oasis above the city, a legacy of a movie that was made about a case he solved. It sits high above the city cantilevered out over scrubland and coyotes with a wall of windows and outside an open deck with a convenient railing. Jazz music fills the space which is somewhat minimalist and rather shipshape as if floating in air is like floating at sea. It does have three bedrooms however, which is fortunate when Bosch discovers that he has a daughter from his only wife and only love, the former FBI agent and very successful gambler, Eleanor Wish. Wish and Bosch do not work as partners but their daughter, Maddie, is a great addition to the series. She plays a more prominent role in the TV series, but she and Harry have an easy and positive relationship even though or perhaps because Harry is hardly ever home. Maddie understands what drives her father and she finds herself driven by the same desire to rid the world of evil doers. She humanizes Harry.
Michael Connelly creates a thinking detective, not an action hero, and he takes us through cases that come out of the news of the moment. This gives his books a historical perspective on what different eras have brought to life in Los Angeles and to the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed my summer of Bosch. It offered a nice break from the ever more chaotic politics of America and everywhere else. To go along as a hero follows the trail of a criminal murderer or rapist, an arsonist who burned up children to cover a crime, or people who committed ‘all the sins that flesh is heir to’, to use a “murder book” to catch a criminal, brought a sense of balance back into my life. Seeing wrongs righted offers satisfaction even if the heroics are fictional. I also find, whenever I read a book set in LA, that we are given lots of highway routes in case we ever want to follow in Bosch’s footsteps. Don’t bring a gun; bring some Charles Mingus and some good fast food. You won’t need a GPS. Just take the 405 to Mulholland
From an SNL skit:
Yes, Californians yak about traffic the same way Oregonians talk about the weather, effortlessly working it into conversations.
A hilarious example from jealous boyfriend Fred Armisen during Saturday’s SNL skit “The Californians”:
“I think you should go home now, Devin! Get back on San Vincente. Take it to the 10. Switch over to 405 North and let it dump you into Mulholland…where you belong.”
Thank you, Michael Connelly. You provided a great bridge to take me out of COVID isolation and sorrow, back to fighting the good fight to save democracy and enjoying life.