Michael Connelly’s body of work is an object lesson in how to keep things fresh. His first novel, The Black Echo, was published in 1992 and introduced LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. It was an attempt if not to reframe or reanimate the detective novel then at least to cast it through a more contemporary lens. “I made Harry a cop out of convenience,” Connelly told me in 1997. “Although I was influenced by Chandler and Macdonald, I felt that in the 1990s, the natural heir to that type of detective would not be a private eye. I thought he would be a real cop. I wanted my books to be grounded in reality, and the reality is that private eyes aren’t running around Los Angeles solving murders every year.”
Connelly’s right about that, of course, although his comment speaks to more than just his understanding of mysteries and how they operate. It also suggests his intention to develop characters who are not merely archetypes but three-dimensional human beings. Bosch is one such figure: a Vietnam vet who has his troubles with the department, a loner who likes to go his own way. Over the course of Connelly’s career, the detective has grown and developed, experiencing heartbreak and illness, joy and redemption and loss. It’s the way of the world, as Bosch observes in the author’s 36th novel, The Dark Hours: “The abyss. But you can’t let it get you down.… Being in the front row means you get to try to do something about it.”
This article appears in the Spring 2022 issue of Alta Journal.
The Dark Hours represents one more bit of reinvention: a detective novel for the post-pandemic, post–George Floyd era. In it, Connelly pairs Bosch with another of his recurring characters, LAPD detective Renée Ballard. Bosch and Ballard have worked together in two previous novels; like him, she is an outsider among her colleagues, cynical about the department and its politics. In The Dark Hours, they reunite after an apparently stray bullet kills a former gang member (now the owner of an auto shop) in Hollywood during a street party on New Year’s Eve.
Connelly understands the ins and outs of Southern California street life; he was a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times before he became a novelist. Here, however, he seeks to address a larger question: What is the role of the police procedural in a defund-the-police world? The strength of the novel resides in its complexity, its insistence on challenging us. The LAPD that Connelly portrays is steeped in crisis, uncertain of how to respond to either COVID-19 or the shift in public sentiment. It’s a circumstance ripe for exploration, and Bosch and Ballard’s passage through this ambiguous landscape makes for a superb reimagining of the form.•