Tuesday, October 18, 2016


THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE by Michael Connelly (Orion, 2016)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Having said goodbye to life in the LAPD, Harry Bosch is now working as a private eye as well as a volunteer investigator for the tiny San Fernando Police Department. Aging billionaire Whitney Vance calls on Bosch to find out if Vance has a heir from a long-ago relationship - a heir power-hungry people never want to be found - while in his 'day job' Bosch is on the trail of a dangerous serial rapist who's flown under the radar. 

Given readers were first introduced to LAPD detective Harry Bosch almost a quarter century ago, Michael Connelly could be forgiven for becoming a little formulaic after such a long-running series. After all, Bosch is one of the most beloved fictional detectives of modern times, popular with readers and critics alike. He's already appeared in 20 books, and now a hit television series had added to the audience. So it'd make some sense to keep giving readers more of the same, as many of Connelly's crime writing peers have done with their own popular detective series, right?

But Connelly eschews that approach, instead striking a sweet spot between familiarity and freshness in this latest Bosch adventure. The Harry Bosch long-time readers know and love - dogged and prickly, determined to find justice regardless of bureaucracy or powerbrokers, "everybody counts or nobody counts" - is here, but he continues to evolve as he ages, and Connelly peels back the layers a little more on Bosch's past.

For thirty years Bosch has been solving murders and hunting killers for the LAPD, but in THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE the aging detective has farewelled the LAPD in less-than-ideal circumstances, and finds himself tackling two intriguing cases that aren't murders but could be even more dangerous than his days as a homicide detective. No longer a full-time cop, Bosch has hung up a private eye shingle, so to speak (he doesn’t advertise, and relies on referrals from those who know his skills), while keeping his hand in as a part-time volunteer reserve officer with the tiny, under-resourced San Fernando police force.

Of course, Bosch can't do anything half-heartedly, voluntary nor not.

Dual roles bring Bosch dual mysteries. A reclusive billionaire facing up to his own mortality wants Bosch to discreetly find out whether a long-ago relationship may have produced an heir to his massive fortune. A fortune others will fight to control on his death. So Bosch has to dig deep into the past, trying to follow a trail which may not lead anywhere, which unearths links and memories from his own earlier days as a 'tunnel rat' in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he has also discovered a link between some unsolved rapes in San Fernando, so there's a dangerous criminal to hunt in the present.

It's an intriguing set-up to an absorbing crime tale that delivers much more than a page-whizzing plotline. Connelly is a maestro at bringing contemporary Los Angeles to life. In THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE both the author and his detective showcase their experience, insider knowledge, and love for the City of Angels, even in the midst of some terrible crimes and an unusual mystery. There are some lovely echoes of classic California noir (think Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald) as well as Bosch’s own pre-policing past. Connelly weaves in fascinating insights into the history of Los Angeles, while touching the changing face of the modern city, and modern policing. 

There's a real feeling of depth and 'completeness', for want of a better term, to this book. We get to enjoy riding once more with a great character, learning a little more about him, as he stalks around his city trying to solve mysteries past and present.

Bosch is a timeless hero, but not frozen throughout time. In a book dedicated to retiring Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, Connelly continues to hit it out of the park.

THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE is released in the UK on 18 October, in New Zealand and Australia on 24 October, and in the United States on 1 November 2016. You can follow Connelly on Twitter: @connellybooks

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading publications in several countries. He has interviewed more than 160 crime writers, discussed crime writing at arts and literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, on national radio, and is a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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