Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Black Box - by Michael Connelly

Detective Harry Bosch is back in his stint as part of the open and unsolved (cold case) unit (he has a limited term contract under the LAPDs Deferred Retirement Option Plan). He is working a murder case from back in 1992, during the L.A. riots, that he originally investigated but because of the situation in the city was forced to quickly move on and hand it off to a task force that was unable to solve it. As usual, as soon as Harry gains a little momentum, he quickly runs up against departmental politics.

If you are not familiar with Bosch, this is the 18th book of the series that features him. I find Harry to be one of the more realistic protagonists of the crime thriller genre. He is smart and tough, but certainly no genius or para-military freak of nature. He makes mistakes sometimes, he struggles with guilt, he can be gruff and he sometimes deals poorly with his emotions and relationships. He is dedicated to his police work, however, and does what it takes to close his cases and obtain justice. He follows his moral code, even if that means bending a few rules or making decisions that jeopardize himself and/or his career.

The title of the book was highlighted from two aspects. First, Bosch mentions knowledge passed down to him that the key to investigation is finding the "black box."  Just as the wreckage is combed after a plane crash to find the aircraft's black box, the key to criminal investigation is to find the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together.  Second, the time of the murder in this book preceded the widespread use of digital storage technologies common today.  Back then, handwritten notes were jotted on index cards and stored in little black boxes.  An old-school cop like Harry is comfortable and even a little nostalgic about things like this.

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