Michael Connolly. The Black Box. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.
Connolly seems unstoppable with one excellent police procedural after another. Detective Harry Bosch, although confined to cold cases, works on his usual instinctive principles. Which is to say, I'm solving this crime my way. It's a twenty-year-old murder that happened in the storm of the LA riots and a solution looks hopeless. But we know Harry, he finds and follows the gun through its twisting history. The death of a foreign journalist won't be ignored on his watch. He's also strengthening relationships with his daughter and his latest love Hannah. Pacing is everything with Connolly, and he never seems to fail. No lyricism here, just plain straight language. (Isn't there something so Clint Eastwood about this?)
This novel, more than others, employed many acronyms of police work. Fortunately they are explained in context but I found myself compiling them. LAPD and ATF and BOLO we cop fans should know already; but how about:
OUU - Open-Unsolved Unit
RCTF - Riot Crimes Task Force
GED - Gang Enforcement Detail
CRASH - Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums
MDT - Mobile Data Terminal (in every patrol car)
CBO - [case] Cleared By Other means
TLO - meaning undetermined; a telephone database?
PSB - Professional Standards Bureau (formerly IA - Internal Affairs)
DROP - Deferred Retirement Option Plan
CUBO - Conduct Unbecoming an Officer
Harry's quest starts in prison with a long-term inmate:
He had a heavily muscled and sculpted physique, a neck wider than his head―including his ears. Sixteen years of pushups and sit ups and whatever exercises he could manage in his cell had given him a chest that easily extended beyond his chin, and biceps-triceps vises that looked like they could crush walnuts to powder. In th mug shots, his hair had always had a stylized fade. Now his head was clean-shaven and he had used his dome as a canvas for the Lord. On either side he had blue prison-ink crosses wrapped in barbed wire. Bosch wondered if that was part of the lobbying effort with the parole board. I'm saved. It says so right here on my cranium.
"Yes, I'm a cop," Bosch finally said. "Up from L.A."
"Sher'ff's or PD?"
"LAPD. My name's Bosch. And Rufus, this is going to be the single luckiest or unluckiest day of your life." (37-38)
Linwood Barclay. The Accident. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2011.
Barclay is a master at creating ordinary people, people we can relate to, whose lives spiral out of control from one sinister event. Bad things happen to good people. But we don't know who's hiding the worst secrets until Barclay peels away the layers one by one. Did Glen Garber's wife kill herself by causing a dreadful car crash? Or was it an inexplicable accident? Or something else? We see children, friends, neighbours, employees, all drawn into the widening vortex around financial desperation. Some of those nice people end up at each others' throats.
A major underlying theme plays on Sherlock Holmes' observation of solving a case: after eliminating the impossible, whatever improbability remains, usually leaves you with the truth. Garber wrestles with this throughout. Oddly ‒ or so I thought ‒ The Accident is missing the unforced humour that iced the cake of the first two books I read. Even though this is a well-plotted mystery with his typical can't-put-it-down final one hundred pages, I hope Barclay's next book returns with that fun touch because he's so good at it.
Toss and turn, indeed:
It was a world gone mad.
And how great it would be, Belinda thought, if a collapsing real estate market were all she had to worry about these days.
A few weeks ago, falling house prices, hardly any buyers, and no fat commissions going into the bank account had her tossing and turning all night. But at least back then, all she was worried about was her financial future. Keeping a roof over their heads, making the lease payments on the Acura.
She wasn't actually scared for her personal safety. She wasn't worried that someone might hurt her.
Not like now. (52)
Homeless person waiting for passing cars:
"Can I give her something?" Kelly asked.
"Don't put your window down." The woman's eyes seemed dead. She wasn't expecting me to give her anything. Out of every hundred cars that got stopped at this light, how many offered her anything? Two? One? None? What had brought her to this point? Had her life always been this way? Or had she, at one time, had one like ours? A house, a family, a regular job. A husband, maybe. Kids. And if she had known a life like that, was there one event that started the unravelling? Did she lose her job? Did her husband lose his? Did their car die and they had no money to fix it, and couldn't get to work? Did they fall behind on their mortgage and lose their house? And once, having lost it, were they so far behind the eight ball that they could never recover? And had it come to this? Standing at the end of the off-ramp, begging for help?
Couldn't any of us end up this way when one part of our life went horribly wrong, and then the dominoes started to fall?
I fished a five-dollar bill out of my pocket and powered down my window. The woman came around the front of the car, took the bill from my hand without saying a word, and went back to her station.
Kelly said, "You can't get anything for five bucks." (221)