Saturday, August 26, 2017

Michael Connelly's The Burning Room


Michael Connelly's The Burning Room

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch book The Burning Room has razor sharp talk, is deeply, maybe primarily, procedural yet never dry or boring. It moves quickly and is fascinating in the way it has Bosch working thorough each step of his investigation, no step taken too small to not merit some weighing of alternatives. 

Lightly folded into Bosch as top flight investigator are touches from his life: his teen age daughter, his nearing retirement, his indifference to conventional proprieties and to being political, his love of jazz, his love life or, better, his recent lack of one. From all these blended touches, from his exchanges with those around him, his colleagues, those he answers to, others who answer to him, and from the relentless way he investigates, driven by an underlying moral passion to see justice done, emerges a whole and concretely vivid picture of a particular man

The storytelling starts with a just dead mariachi guitarist who dies from the lingering effects of being shot being shot 10 years prior. On extracting a bullet from the corpse, the chief pathologist determines the 10 year old shooting a murder. 

From this premise spins out a story with many tentacles touching on a horrible barrio fire in which children died and that happening coincident with a cheque cashing store robbery over 20 years ago netting the robbers then big money--over $200,000.00, touching a nun with a bad past, touching a right wing extremist, touching high stakes California politicians including a most wealthy backer, touching Bosch's inevitable confrontations with politically infected police brass, touching his young female partner's back story and touching investigative trips around Southern California and to other states. From this welter of detail and of minor and major characters come complication and complexity as messy and as intriguing as life itself. 

And in all of it, Bosch is unquestionably one of the good guys, questing for justice, utterly professional in his zealous yet controlled police work, thinking moves ahead in a chess like way. He likens interviewing suspects to entering a burning room. Tread carefully there, he advises his young partner: ...Because it’s a hot door, and we have to be careful. You never open a door on a burning room... Bosch scorns lazy detectives who won't expend investigative energy unless the science, the forensics, lays a a foundation for a workable theory. He's clearly old school, a variant, likely unintended, on Gerald Green's The Last Angry Man. In his controlled zeal, in his moral passion for just deserts, for setting wrong right, in his hard code of right and wrong, all the procedural and investigative detail work perfectly in allowing the complete and particular figure of Bosch emerge:

....The good ones all had that hollow space inside. The empty place where the fire always burns. For something. Call it justice. Call it the need to know. Call it the need to believe that those who are evil will not remain hidden in darkness forever...

I recommend this book highly. It's a wonderful read and Connelly is a superb craftsman.

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