The Wrong Side of Goodbye (A Harry Bosch Novel)
“Connelly himself only gets better with age.”
When mystery readers first met Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch about 25 years ago, he was 40 years old, the illegitimate son of a murdered prostitute, a Vietnam vet, and a Los Angeles police detective who had already gotten the label among higher-ups as a troublemaker.
Harry may have grown older, but he is still the most compelling anti-crime figure to have come out of L.A. fiction since the days of Raymond Chandler. In Michael Connelly’s latest installment of the series, Harry has been forced to retire from the LAPD despite having brought more than 100 murderers to justice. He has unenthusiastically become a private investigator. His daughter is away at college. (Her mother was originally an FBI agent whom readers met in the first novel, The Black Echo, but she was later killed, so Harry took over the job of raising the young woman.)
Not content to live leisurely as an aging private eye, Harry takes on a second job as a volunteer detective for a tiny police department in San Fernando, a town surrounded by Los Angeles but not part of it. The book thus gets Harry enmeshed in two different investigations, one a private-eye missing persons job involving the possible heir to a tycoon’s fortune, the other the hunt for a serial rapist who had been terrorizing women in San Fernando.
The missing person story turns out to be one with great resonance for Harry. The tycoon had a college girlfriend, a Mexican woman, who had become pregnant, much to the anger of his straight-laced family. They threatened her, and she disappeared. Her boyfriend was too much of a coward to look for her. Now, nearing the end of his life, the tycoon wants to know if she ever gave birth and if his heir was, unknown to him, somewhere in the world.
What Harry eventually discovers, of course, is that she did have a child. But there’s much more to it than that. The trail leads Harry to a Vietnam connection that also involves Southern California’s Latino community.
The fun of reading Connelly is not just the guessing games and the chases but the process. Bosch may be an anti-authoritarian guy who deliberately refuses to sign out of the San Fernando PD office when a superior asks him to, but he has always been a brilliant tactician. Whether it is using computer records to trace births or interviewing old-timers who know secrets that records don’t show, Bosch turns police work into fascinating stories in the same way that a good reporter (Michael Connelly was one at the Los Angeles Times) puts flesh on the bare bones of a news report.
Toward the end of The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Harry is assured of mentoring younger police offers in San Fernando, and he’s happy about it. Harry is not a cynic; he hates bad cops as much as he cares about good ones. It has to do with “cop blood.” As the narrator explains, “in his internal universe, there was a mission etched in a secret language, like drawings on the wall of an ancient cave, that gave him his direction and meaning.”
Readers should be happy about Harry’s new role, too. It means they can expect more Michael Connelly Bosch novels. To judge by this one, Connelly himself only gets better with age.