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The Black Ice is the second novel by Michael Connelly to feature the Los Angeles detective Hieronymus (rhymes with anonymous) Bosch. I have long been a fan of Connelly work and have read a number of his novels however in the case of the Bosch series of novels these have not always been in the order that they were produced. This particular copy of The Black Ice was purchased as part of an omnibus edition alongside the first book to feature Bosch entitled The Black Echo.
Harry Bosch is enjoying a lonely Christmas spent on call as a homicide detective based in the Hollywood Division. A former member of the elite Robbery Homicide Division (RHD) Bosch had been demoted following the suspicious shooting of a serial killer, following the investigation which was actively pursued by the head of Internal Investigations, Chief Irving, it was only public opinion that saved Bosch job however he had made many enemies amongst those who considered him a loose cannon.
Whilst eating his solitary meal and reading the three cards he received Bosch hears a call out over his police radio for an apparent suicide at a hotel. Immediately Bosch is suspicious as the call out is given to RHD instead of Bosch, sensing that the body may be that of Calexico Moore a narcotics detective who had been missing for a number of days and who was widely believed to have crossed over to the other side.
Bosch is quick to identify a number of irregularities with the supposed suicide and begins to carry out his own investigation into what was behind Moore actions. Soon he begins to unravel a web of lies and deceit as he discovers a man whose past is as unclear and complicated as Bosch own past life.
Bosch is ordered away from the Moore case after being given the role of informing the former Mrs. Moore a woman he is instantly attracted to. Instead he is ordered by his statistic obsessed boss to solve a case quick before the end of the year, however the two cases he starts to look in to both lead him back to Moore and the drugs trade in a new designer drug called Black Ice. At the same time unknown to him his old nemeses Irving has ordered another investigation into him and internal affairs are fast on his heels.
The Main Character
Bosch is a loner having spent all of his life in institutions. Fostered as a child from his prostitute mother he spent much of his youth in a children's home before serving in Vietnam and then moving into another institution the LAPD. Bosch problem is that while he is a brilliant detective with a great success rate his lack or respect for authority and the fact that he is not a team player in what his bosses view as the LAPD Family results in him spending as much time avoiding the attentions of the internal investigations department as he does solving crimes. However the fact that he is a brilliant investigator with a strong moral belief that "everyone counts" means that his success rate at solving crimes makes him invaluable to his bosses whose primary concerns are the all important crime statistics and clearance rates of their detectives.
Connelly has a smooth style of writing and is skilled at weaving a complex storyline around the characters in his books. In Bosch he has a rather stereotypical American cop, tough and uncompromising but one that the reader can identify with, think Dirty Harry without the big gun.
Written in the third person Connelly keeps the storyline moving at a fast pace however wit some of his novels I sometimes feel that they are almost 50 pages too long. One slightly annoying trait is that he always describes in great detail any journey that is undertaken so that at times it feels like a travel guide to LA.
What Connelly is skilled at is getting the reader inside the head of Bosch as he begins to solve the case, sometimes you can see the outcome coming in advance but often this is not the case as Connelly keeps the suspense levels high and the plot twists coming at a regular rate.
Connelly inspiration for Bosch came from spending three years on the LA Times crime desk and before that he was a crime reporter in Miami where he came into contact with the drug trade.
This is a solid piece of work which kept my attention throughout. The character development from the first novel is solid and the storyline is an intelligent one.
Having already read some of his later novels did not really impact upon my enjoyment of this book, obviously the main character does not die but other than that it was only possible to guess the eventual outcome from the facts and clues in the book.
In fact having read later pieces of work helped in a perverse way because over time you get to appreciate the basis for some of Bosch friendships and rivalries that exist in the later pieces of work.
If I have one criticism it is that the opening premise of an apparent suicide from which Bosch is the only one to see through it is the same as Connelly first book The Black Echo. This is a small irritation as the storylines diverge from then on but it shows a lack of imagination and a sense of deja-vu for the reader.
If you are a reader of detective thrillers then this is certainly one worth reading. I borrowed this book from a friend and it is published by Orion as part of an omnibus edition featuring his first two Harry Bosch novels. The rrp is £7.99 however the book was purchased from Tesco for £2.99 which is an excellent bargain.