“The Black Ice” by Michael Connelly

Connelly, Michael. The Black Ice (1993). 
St. Martin’s, 368 pages, $6.99 mass market paperback  
ISBN 0 312 95281 3

It’s Christmas Day, and L.A. homicide detective Harry Bosch is on call. When he hears a broadcast for a homicide on the police scanner, he wonders why he, the on-call detective, hasn’t been notified. Bosch soon learns that the apparent victim is another police detective, Calexico Moore, whom Bosch knew slightly and who has been missing for several days. Bosch also soon learns that he’s purposely being squeezed out of the investigation loop – a big mistake on the part of his superiors.

Harry’s boss should know that telling Harry not to investigate a case is the surest way to get Harry involved. Moore’s beat was illegal drugs, and Harry has just been handed the investigation into the death of a suspected drug dealer. Deciding that there’s a possible link between the drug dealer’s death and Cal Moore’s, Harry begins looking into the Moore case as well.

To investigate Cal Moore’s death, Bosch must analyze the other man’s life. In many ways Moore’s childhood paralleled Bosch’s own. The deeper Bosch penetrates into Moore’s history, the more he also has to confront his own past. Bosch’s mother, a prostitute, “had once told him he was the namesake of an artist whose work she admired. She said the painter’s five hundred year old paintings were apt portraits of present L.A., a nightmarish landscape of predators and victims” (p. 212).

Throughout the Bosch series Michael Connelly brings this “nightmarish landscape of predators and victims” to life. What makes this series so effective is the sense that all of this matters deeply, that every murder case Harry confronts tilts the universe slightly on its axis. Solving the case may provide some justice, but it can never completely undo the damage. It’s as if each murder tilts the universe two degrees off center, but each resolution can only correct the situation by one degree. 

Attempting to set the universe back aright is a personal mission for Harry Bosch, and he’ll do whatever he thinks the job requires. This is why the LAPD brass don’t want Bosch involved in cases – like Cal Moore’s death – that they want to keep quiet. As Assistantt Chief Irving tells Harry, “You don’t play for the team. You play for yourself” (p. 360). Given the two-steps-backward-for-every-one-step-forward nature of Bosch’s mission, readers of Connelly’s series have to wonder how long Bosch can keep at it before the job breaks him.

© 2002 by Mary Daniels Brown

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