The Black Box (A Harry Bosch Novel, 16)

Image of The Black Box (A Harry Bosch Novel, 16)
Release Date: 
February 27, 2024
Grand Central Publishing
Reviewed by: 

“In this season of tangled and terrifying national and global issues, it’s satisfying to dip back into the masterful plotting and ultimate resolution that Connelly offers.”

The 2024 release of The Black Box is a reprint of book 16 in the Harry Bosch series (from October 2013). It’s great to be called back to this intense police procedural and get a refresher on how Michael Connelly shaped his Vietnam War veteran into a driven investigator in a series where the first book exposed Bosch’s “tunnel rat” experience in Asia, in The Black Echo.

In The Black Box, the not yet retired Los Angeles homicide detective confronts a cold case that carries him back to combat in a different way: During the 1992 riots in South Central LA, Harry Bosch and his partner Edgar caught a case they weren’t allowed to pursue, the death of a white woman among the many Black residents being killed. It was a political hot potato at the time—what would wounded and furious the community think if the white murder got solved, but not the Black ones?— and in some ways, when Bosch tackles a case review in 2012, it’s no less fraught politically.

But evidence changes across time, as the ways to understand it are re-shaped. Cold case though this is, the bullet casing saved from the murder scene can now be matched with a crime committed by a hard-core gang member in prison. Bosch has a chance to track down the gun and, with that, the reason for the death of Danish photojournalist Anneke Jesperson.

“Now, twenty years later, he got another shot at it. And it was a very long shot at that. He believed that every case had a black box. A piece of evidence, a person, a positioning of facts that brought a certain understanding and helped explain what had happened and why.” With the passion for justice, and compassion for victims (which often includes those forced into becoming criminals), Bosch becomes determined to pull together the “black box” for Anneke’s murder, the way an air crash investigator would seek the black box, too.

First he’ll have to convince Rufus Coleman to share 20-year-old information, and even across such a gap of time, it won’t be easy. To Bosch, “These were young men fired in the anti-cop cauldron of South LA. They were seasoned by racism, drugs, societal indifference, and the erosion of traditional family and education structures.” Add a life in prison to that background. Can Bosch offer sufficient compensation for the information he needs critically? Maybe. He is, by this point, a consummate game player himself.

And soon another black box, this time a cop’s personal file box of gang affiliations and actions, gives him entry into the people he most wants to persuade. Detective Jordy Gant in Gang Enforcement admits, “You were lucky, Harry, we still had the [gang] Sixties in a box. Hope there’s something in there that helps.”

Returning as a reader to this 20-years-old Connelly work is a delight, as the outlines of this novelist’s technique show cleanly: Set up the case, yes, but more importantly, show how Bosch and his closest allies come to care enough about solving it to put their own lives at risk. As often happens in this series, Bosch is targeting immoral members of the police establishment at the same time as he aims for the cold-case criminal. His hard-won family structure and his always-tenuous romantic life also fall into jeopardy, as much through his dogged decision making as through crime-solving itself.

In this season of tangled and terrifying national and global issues, it’s satisfying to dip back into the masterful plotting and ultimate resolution that Connelly offers. In fact, it’s tempting to go all the way back to 1992 “in real life” for the first Harry Bosch release ever. But thinking about re-reading the entire series gets a great short-cut with this handy reissue of The Black Box.