Harry Bosch is an L.A. police detective in a series of crime novels. Bosch is somber like Joe Friday, and is a straight-shooter who plays no favorites. Friday didn’t shoot people, Bosch does. “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” Very simple, but not always easy to do.
The Harry Bosch novels are among my favorite character series. Kinsey Millhone, Jack Reacher, Walt Longmire, Evan Maitland, Will Robie, John Puller and The Camel Club are other characters that I’ve spent years reading. There are many good mystery series but the best will always be those written by Agatha Christie.
Aside from Agatha Christie, the first mystery series I read was Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series but it became just too unbelievable and a wide turn from the scientific realism of the early books. Realism is a big deal to capture my interest. Some writers fall into the “more incredible has to be better” category. Rarely is it. If you want comic book fantasy, just read comic books. Writers who can build drama through details, plausibility and character development are truly masters.
Bosch’s creator is Michael Connelly, a former newspaper crime beat reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Connelly’s inspiration was Raymond Chandler novels of the 1940’s, and there are distant parallels between Phillip Marlowe and Harry Bosch. Seeking literary inspiration, Connelly even lived in the apartment used in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, a 1970’s view of Marlowe.
The Harry Bosch books came to me by way of The Lincoln Lawyer film, another series written by Connelly. I took a chance on the Bosch character and have not been disappointed. The television series based on the Bosch character, uses fragments of the books and makes Bosch a generation younger. I enjoy the television series but the books are where it is at for a deep dive into a Bosch case. The television series has a lot of secondary characters, which for an ongoing series across multiple seasons, is a smart dramatic technique, but I sometimes see it as unnecessary and a distraction. Bosch has been renewed for a sixth season even before season five has aired, so what do I know.
In the latest Connelly novel, Dark Sacred Night, Bosch shares the page with detective Renee Ballard, a rising character in the Connelly collection. Dark Sacred Night, is a top-flight novel, on par with Connelly’s other works. We haven’t seen the Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) recently, aside from a supporting character in Bosch cases. Bosch and Haller are step-brothers if you didn’t know.
Dark Sacred Night, might lead to a regular team effort of Bosch and Ballard, as the book ended with the two of them agreeing to work together on cases. I hope that Connelly isn’t intending to retire the Bosch character because he’s an alpha dog in the crime universe boneyard, despite his age and not having any current law enforcement gig.
Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch (named after a famous painter) is like several police detectives I have known, which is partly why I can relate to him, and kind of understand him. Somewhat like Jack Reacher, Bosch is a lone wolf, which is a common trait for many popular detective characters. The late Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, also a loner, is a female private detective, who bends rules but is not dishonest. Kinsey is bad with relationships, a trait shared with Bosch and Reacher, and many of David Baldacci’s characters. Kinsey sees the world more humorously than her male cohorts and like Bosch, bares the scars of being abandoned as a child by the death of parents. Successful detectives may possess great strength, courage and deductive reasoning, but they struggle with the nuts and bold of life and close relationships.
Bosch is a self-made man, and a man who seems used to treading water in a sea of trouble. His mother, a prostitute, was murdered and Bosch grew up in various homes and institutions for kids. He joined the Army at age 17 and was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, then became a police officer. He has a love for jazz, particularly moody saxophone albums. Besides his daughter, working murders is what matters to Bosch. The unsolved murder of his mother defined his path.
Bosch’s confidence can border on arrogance at times, but its never an “in your face” attitude. He’s not loud or brash, just very authoritative in his manner. He can rub people the wrong way but he usually has a reason. Bosch is not just a rule-bender, he can be a rule-breaker, which underscores the number of departmental complaints and lawsuits against him, but usually he prevails although sometimes what he gains is costly.
Bosch has worked with many partners, and they are usually one step behind him. Some of his partners prosper, others do not. Bosch is not looking for the next promotion, just the next case. He battles with superiors; if you aren’t there to help, get out of the way.
In Bosch’s world, Connelly paints a police environment that seems quite real. You can feel the pinch of the bureaucracy, the pull of politics and the grime of the late night Hollywood streets.
In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Connelly described Los Angeles, the setting for Bosch and The Lincoln Lawyer. “So much of it is physically beautiful—from the ocean to mountains to deserts. It’s all there—but it’s all messed up, you know? It’s a town that reaches for the brass ring but always misses it.”
After 21 novels, and no current law enforcement job, I wonder about Bosch’s career and his fictional future. Where can Connelly go with Bosch? Are there more cases, but how would he be involved as outsider, unless as Ballard’s partner. We haven’t heard from Mickey Haller in awhile, and Renee Ballard seems the rising star in Connelly’s universe.