"The Crossing" By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Co., New York, 2015. 388 pages. $28
"The Crossing" referenced in the title of Michael Connelly's new Harry Bosch detective novel is not a place, it's an act of self betrayal. In this, Connelly's 20th Bosch novel, Bosch will cross over from murder detective to a defense investigator and he will suffer the consequences. Bosch, as always, sets the standard for the brilliant-but-conflicted detective.
Connelly's 20th builds a momentum that doesn't let up till the last pages. Until then, he has us on our toes as we problem-solve a series of seemingly random murders one step behind Bosch. An expensive Audemars Piguet watch, absent from a victim's wrist, is the link that ties all the murders together but, of course, only Bosch puts it together. Eight bodies, rogue cops, a disenchanted daughter, a collapsed love affair and a ruined career are all part of this excellent story.
In "The Crossing," we encounter Bosch six months or so into his forced retirement from the LAPD. In the throes of a series of major-life transitions, he realizes he'd rather be a murder detective than home restoring his 1950s Harley-Davidson. When 'Lincoln Lawyer' Mickey Haller asks Bosch to help prove the innocence of Da'Quan Foster, a man falsely accused of murder, Bosch balks. I won't cross over, he tells his half brother.
Even though Bosch is suing the police department because of his forced retirement, he is deeply loyal. He's spent his professional career putting murderers behind bars. He has no desire to "cross over" to the defense side -- what's called a "Jane Fonda" in the business -- to aid a convicted murderer. In Bosch's experience, if a guy's behind bars he probably belongs there. More importantly, he does not want to be seen by his fellow detectives as a turncoat.
Both Bosch and Mickey Haller are sons of a fabled LA defense attorney, though they only recently learned that they're brothers. Astute Mickey Haller is famously dubbed the "Lincoln Lawyer" because he runs his law business out of his car. Connelly routinely references the movie titled "Lincoln Lawyer," starring Mathew McConaughey, as part of the story line.
Haller tells Bosch that Foster was accused of the exceedingly brutal murder of a Lexi Parks, assistant manager of Hollywood. Foster doesn't know Parks, but his DNA is on and in her body. And the man who could have upheld his alibi is found murdered and dumped in an alley. Next, Haller's private investigator is seriously injured in a suspicious hit and run. "Innocent clients leave scars," Haller tells Bosch as he argues for Bosch's assistance in the absence of his investigator. Bosch succumbs, little by little, until the reality hits him. He's crossed the aisle and everybody in LAPD that matters knows this.
One of Connelly's premises is that the LA homicide detectives are good at what they do, which means that Bosch has to be better. Now that he's on the outside, it's hard to investigate without his usual resources, including his badge. Once he gets his hands on the murder book, with the help of former colleagues, and begins to review the case, Bosch sees that the detectives have been exhaustive in their search. But not exhaustive enough. Bosch uses simple techniques like list-building, to track timelines and, thereby, track the story behind the murders. The answers are in the murder book, he asserts. He systematically finds answers to each of his questions till the story's arc is built and pointing toward the truth.
Connelly's many fans look forward to Bosch's problematic adventures. It's sometimes hard to understand why he's so disliked within the LAPD, but it has to do with his relentlessness, his competence, and his dogged persistence. He's a truth teller and therefore, often impolitic. "The Crossing" is especially fun because we half-expected Bosch, now retired, to drop away. It's great that he's back, and it's great that Connelly hasn't let up on Bosch. Bosch has more obstacles than ever to overcome, and, happily he's living up to his storied reputation.
Rae Padilla Francoeur's memoir, "Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair," is available online or in some bookstores. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org Read her blog at http://www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or follow her @RaeAF.