Friday, September 5, 2014

book review: The Black Box by Michael Connelly

The backstory: The Black Box is the eighteenth Michael Connelly mystery to feature LAPD detective Harry Bosch. My reviews of the previous seventeen (and Connelly's other mysteries) are listed in my Book Review Database.

The basics: Twenty years ago, during the L.A. riots, Harry Bosch and his then partner were called to help investigate murders during the riots, when that precinct had too many murder victims to handle alone. With only a few hours at the crime scene of Anneke Jesperson, a young Danish photojournalist, Bosch knew then the crime wouldn't be solved. Now, in 2012, a ballistics match gives a new lead to the puzzling mystery of why a young, white foreigner found herself shot execution style in South Central L.A. during the height of the L.A. riots.

My thoughts: The titular black box is a powerful metaphor for Bosch's sense of justice and purpose:
"He believed that every case had a black box. A piece of evidence, a person, a positioning of facts that brought a certain understanding and helped explain what had happened and why. But with Anneke Jespersen, there was no black box."
As this mystery unfolds, it's hard to believe it can be solved. There are so many pieces that don't fit and don't make sense, but there are so few pieces of evidence to begin with. And the case is twenty years old. It's a fascinating investigation to see unravel, and, unsurprisingly, Connelly includes more than one jaw-dropping revelation over the course of the novel.

The novel begins in 1992, when Harry first arrives at the crime scene. Connelly has written about the L.A. riots many times, and I always enjoy his attention to this time. He captures the chaos so well. After the historical prologue, the story moves to the present (2012), and the tone shifts dramatically. If I didn't know better, I might think Connelly wrote the prologue twenty years ago.

Favorite passage:  "There were a lot of words used to describe jazz music. Bosch had read them over the years in the magazines and in the liner notes of records. He didn’t always understand them. He just knew what he liked, and this was it. Powerful and relentless, and sometimes sad."

The verdict: The Black Box is Michael Connelly at his very best. It's a gripping, complicated mystery that spans twenty years. It's a riveting cold case that offers Bosch an avenue to reflect on his memories of the case and a chance to redeem the investigation today. It incorporates the rich, disturbing stories of the riots and how they led to the Los Angeles of today. Mostly, though, it's about how things are not always what they appear, and the mystery's depth and breadth are one of the most riveting cases Bosch has solved.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 413 pages
Publication date: November 26, 2012 
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Black Box from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

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1 comment:

  1. Haven't read the book but I was caught in the riots as a student. I was living in a cheap apartment and ended up not being able to leave for three days...might have been four. I remember the time well. No food in the house and people getting stabbed right outside my door!


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