Written by Michael Connelly — “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people,” is a quotation that appears more than once in this book. And Harry Bosch isn’t a cop any more, not really. After a long-winded lawsuit against the LAPD from which Bosch received a hefty settlement, he is retired, and persona non grata with some of his former colleagues.
So The Wrong Side of Goodbye opens with one of America’s favourite fictional cops working as a part-time, unpaid, reserve detective in the San Fernando force. The rest of his time is spent as a private detective, and it is the latter job that leads to him being summoned to meet ageing aviation billionaire Whitney Vance, who offers an initial cheque for $10,000 and an intriguing proposition…
Whitney is near the end of his life and he has no heirs. He never married, and instead concentrated on making his business ever-more successful. But as a teenager, Vance got an under age Mexican girl pregnant, sent her away and never heard from her again. Did she have the child? It is a conundrum that appeals to Bosch, and he agrees to take on the case, little realising that the search will stir up his own, long-buried memories in the process.
But meantime, he has other fish to fry. He may be an unpaid, part-time, reserve member of SFPD, but come on – when has Bosch ever done things by halves? He and the full-time, salaried detective Bella Lourdes, are on the cusp of breaking a case involving a sexual predator dubbed the Screen Cutter. Harry’s cold case experience has come up trumps, uncovering a link between a number of seemingly unrelated, vicious rapes. The man is still active though, and Bosch and Lourdes fear he may be escalating his crimes and could be on the brink of committing murder.
The twin investigations ebb and flow, although there’s a tidal surge when Whitney Vance dies. Game over for Bosch, until he finds an interesting little package in his mailbox. Suddenly the quest to find a Vance heir becomes all the more imperative. As Bosch throws himself into both police and private work, he still manages to touch base occasionally with his daughter, Maddie, now studying at Chapman University. Mickey Haller fans will also be pleased to know that he has a part to play in this tale – he and Bosch are half-brothers, after all.
The Bosch series has come a long, long way since The Black Echo was published in 1992, and there is no sign of standards slipping. Harry is getting older, and with age comes a little more restraint and plenty of aches and pains. Bosch and his fans are growing old together, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re slowing down. Thankfully our hero has lost none of his edge where detective work is concerned and Connelly’s meticulous approach to plotting gives us plenty to think about.
It is rare for a screen version of a well known fictional character to resonate with me but Titus Welliver’s face and voice leapt out from the pages and, if anything, added to the enjoyment of The Wrong Side of Goodbye. (Series three of Bosch is in the pipeline from Amazon.) I read this novel in two sittings, and the interim found me longing to get back to the story at hand and discover how things panned out.
At the end of it all, I was surprised to shed a tear or two and it’s a story which evokes all manner of emotions. A masterclass in crime writing. Bosch might not be a cop any more, but little people? NEVER! I’m already looking forward to Two Kinds of Truth, out in October,
CFL Rating: 5 Stars