“The Concrete Blonde” by Michael Connelly

Connelly, Michael. The Concrete Blonde (1994).   St. Martin’s, 397 pages, $5.99 mass market paperback.   ISBN 0 312 95500 6     

Four years earlier, during the hunt for the serial killer known as the Dollmaker, LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch had followed a lead to a small apartment, where he confronted and killed Norman Church. The contents of the apartment linked Church to nine of the eleven murders under investigation, and he was identified as the Dollmaker. Bosch was credited with catching the Dollmaker, although, because he had not followed proper procedure by going into the apartment alone, he was demoted with a transfer from the elite robbery and homicide division to Hollywood homicide.

The Concrete Blonde opens four years after the death of Norman Church. Church’s widow is suing Bosch and the Los Angeles Police Department in civil court for the use of excessive force in the death of her husband. On the opening day of Bosch’s trial, the police department receives a note – similar to the notes the Dollmaker used to leave – directing them to a body under the floor of a burned-out building. Investigators find the corpse of a blonde woman entombed in the concrete and, by making casts of her fingerprints and face, are able to identify her. But this woman disappeared only two years earlier – in other words, two years after Bosch supposedly killed the Dollmaker. Could Bosch have killed the wrong man? Or did the Dollmaker have an accomplice who is now taking over? Or could there be a copycat killer at work? Whoever killed the blonde in the concrete had intimate knowledge of the investigation, including knowledge of some information that was never released to the public.

Because Bosch has to be in court all day, he cannot participate fully in the investigation of the murder of the concrete blonde. But he works on the case every day after court, feeling a personal stake in the outcome. But every case is personal for Bosch; as he watches his partner, Jerry Edgar, at work, Bosch thinks, “He never seemed to understand that the homicide squad wasn’t a job. It was a mission. As surely as murder was an art for some who committed it, homicide investigation was an art for those on the mission. And it chose you, you didn’t choose it” (pp. 43-44). Trying to find the relationship between this new case and the Dollmaker murders, Bosch examines the list of the Dollmaker’s victims: “Reading the names and the dates of the deaths. Looking at the faces. All of them lost angels in the city of night” (p. 152).

Connelly continues the characterization of Bosch as intensely driven and intensely private. To ground himself in reality, Bosch takes comfort in the baseball statistics published in the paper:  “He somehow found the columns of numbers and percentages comforting. They were clear and concise, an absolute order in a disordered world. Having knowledge of who had hit the most home runs for the Dodgers made him feel that he was still connected in some way to the city, and to his life (p. 7).”

Concrete Blonde takes place about a year after the events in The Black Ice. Bosch and Sylvia Moore, widow of Cal Moore, whose death Bosch investigated in that novel, have been dating for that long. But Sylvia, concerned that Bosch is unable to reveal much of himself to her, is unsure about continuing the relationship. The civil trial and the concrete blonde investigation raise both personal and professional issues that Bosch will have to learn to deal with.

© 2002 by Mary Daniels Brown

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