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Connelly mirrors contemporary issues, L.A.'s vagaries in 'The Black Box'

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

Review

In 1992, Michael Connelly hit the ground running with his debut “The Black Echo” that introduced LAPD detective Harry Bosch. That novel won the Edgar Award for best first novel, introduced Connelly as the heir apparent to Raymond Chandler and also helped usher in a new approach to the police procedural.

Now, 20 years later, Connelly is still writing about Harry, continuing to discover new layers to this now iconic character with increasingly complex and believable plots. “The Black Box,” Connelly's 25th novel and the 19th in the Harry Bosch series, more than proves this. Connelly is one of the best and the most consistent living crime writers.

As he has done in previous novels, Connelly mirrors contemporary issues and Los Angeles' vagaries in “The Black Box,” which also boasts an edgy, labyrinthine plot and chronicles Harry's role as a cop and how it has changed through the years. “The Black Box” opens in 1992, when Los Angeles is in chaos as riots pummel the city following the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King. (“Flames from a thousand fires reflected like the devil dancing in the dark sky.”)

The violence makes good police work nearly impossible as the cops try to contain the riot, mindful of their own vulnerability. Harry and his partner, Jerry Edgar, can't even call their quick look at the shooting of Danish photojournalist Anneke Jespersen an investigation. Before they can make any determination, the case is handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force, and Harry is on to other cases.

But “The Black Box” is not a historical novel. Connelly quickly moves the action to 2012 where Harry now is working in the cold-case squad. A shell casing found at the scene of the Jespersen murder is linked to a gun used in a more-recent crime. Harry, who never gives up on any case, now has to go back through 20 years of skimpy police work to find that “black box” — the key piece of evidence to explain what happened, and why.

“The Black Box” succinctly looks at the staggering changes in attitudes, especially toward the military, technology and Los Angeles during the past 20 years. Especially intriguing is Harry's personal growth as Connelly makes him a fresh and original character in each outing.

Oline H. Cogdill is a staff writer for the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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