As usual, Harry Bosch is at odds with the management of the LAPD. He's still working the Open-Unsolved Unit as part of his DROP (deferred retirement) plan, but the department wants to save money and phase out the DROP cops, so Harry needs to watch his step. Especially when his latest case starts moving into treacherous waters.
Orlando Merced, playing in a mariachi band, was the victim of a stray bullet ten years earlier. It didn't kill him, but lodged against his spine. A decade later, the lead has seeped out, and Merced has died from blood-poisoning; finally the bullet can be extracted and the case re-opened for Harry and his new partner, Lucia Soto, a young Latina who got her detective badge after a gun battle with gang-bangers in which her partner was killed.
This is Harry Bosch back at his roots: for his seventeenth Bosch novel Michael Connelly has written a straight-forward police procedural, in which Bosch's dogged pursuit of truth leads him to open unlocked doors (and, crucially locked ones as well), regardless of the consequences. There are few distractions—his relationship with Hannah Stone is gone, and his daughter, if anything, seems to be going the Wallander route; her shooting ability becomes a small part of the story.
What makes this work is that Connelly has always been able to make character a part of the action; Harry's nature helps determine the way the story moves as much as any mechanics of plot. It means the story is never flashy, the twists never spotlighted, and the flow becomes so organic that when mistakes happen, we understand why. Their consequences are the result of the grounding in reality, which is where Harry Bosch's character has always been grounded.
And you know, as the plot delves deeper and deeper into the politics of Los Angeles and the LAPD, that reality is going to come and bite Harry. In the end, it does: the connected do what the connected do, and justice isn't necessarily done, but Harry once again feels the weight of the department for stepping over the line. But not before Connelly has laid the groundwork for potentially a new relationship for Harry, and maybe a new way forward too. And not before he ends the book with a brilliant last scene that tells you everything you need to know about Harry Bosch, and closes with a bit of quiet business that might have been cliched, but in this context, and in Michael Connelly's hands, is movingly affecting. Like Bosch, Connelly delivers, and The Burning Room shows you how.
The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
Orion £19.99 ISBN 9781409145516
NOTE: This review will also appear at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)