Fighting the invisible monster

Bob Moyer has produced a review in which he manages to use, correctly,  the word “antepenultimate.” He even spelled it correctly. Impressive.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer.

DESERT STAR. By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. 388 pages $29.

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

A witness being interviewed by Bosch quotes that line to him. Martin Luther King said it, but Bosch proves it. In the many cases he has been involved in, some have achieved legal justice. Many (MANY) of them, on the other hand, have been adjusted by the hand of Bosch himself. His unorthodox techniques earned him the enmity of many of his colleagues, all his bosses and, ultimately, they cost him his job.

Thanks to Detective Renee Ballard, Bosch is back in the business that nobody else does better — solving unsolved cases in the “library of lost souls.” Ballard is the female version of Bosch Connelly introduced a few books back. She fights through each case with the same tenacity and technique that Bosch employs, and since they have met, they’ve been quite a team.

Ballard, after quitting but being baited back by the chief, is the boss of the reconstituted Open Unclosed Unit of the LAPD. There’s a political price to pay. However, the unit is sponsored by a city council member who expects her to find out who killed his younger sister many years ago. And who better to put on her expanded (volunteer) unit than Harry Bosch. Bosch indeed finds an overlooked clue that ultimately leads to an identification near the end of the book. However, he takes on the job with an ulterior intention—the Gallagher family murders. Two parents and two kids, murdered with a nail gun, dumped in the desert, have haunted Harry all these years. He spends as much time tracking down old clues for the family as he does assignments from Ballard.

The narrative bounces back and forth with the blend of action, tension and police procedure that no one does better than Connelly. He leads us down a couple of blind alleys, but the detail and the dynamic between the two keeps us riveted as both perpetrators ultimately come to justice.

Of course, the conclusion finds Bosch once again facing down a monster that no one else sees, or even knows exists. He heads off by himself, leaving arcane clues as to where he is, what he’s doing and what’s happening to him. That last will be of interest to Bosch fans, since Connelly leaves clues that Bosch’s career is coming to a close. The reader can surmise that this may be the penultimate, or antepenultimate adventure with Ballard. After all, Bosch took more than disapproval away from his job, and he’s over 70 now. Whatever the result, however, Bosch will be leaving behind a Desert Star. Who’s that?  Ahhh, you will have to read all the way to the end to find out.

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