The Black Box, by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown / Grand Central. 432 pages. Hardcover $27.99 / Paperback $14.99.
If you missed the November hardcover release of this latest title by the master of procedural detective fiction, the paperback is just now available. Mr. Connelly, who splits his time between California and Florida, challenges well-worn L. A. homicide Detective Harry Bosch with an intriguing cold case that had been abandoned some twenty years ago.
During the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the police beatings of Rodney King, a younger version of Harry Bosch was assigned to that war zone. He came across the body of an attractive young Caucasian woman who had been shot close-up through the eye. Was she an intended victim or just someone in the wrong place as the wrong time? The immediate circumstances of the riots led the overworked LAPD to shelve the case. Now, in 2012, Harry and his partner, David Chu, have been assigned to look into it.
There isn’t much in the files or evidence locker to go by, not much more than a lone bullet casing from the scene. Yet something about the victim fires Harry’s sense of responsibility and his imagination. Progress is slow, and Harry’s superior – already on Harry’s case – urges him to wrap it up or reshelve it and pursue another cold case that has a better chance of being closed. A by-the-book, careerist bean-counter, Lt. O’Toole, is just the kind of guy Harry can’t stand – one who is more office manager than agent of justice. Naturally, Harry can’t hide his feelings.
And though Harry makes some effort to hide his persistence with the “Snow White” investigation, O’Toole is watching him closely. Before long, Harry is facing charges regarding his professional behavior. An internal affairs detective begins checking accusations that Harry has misused his badge by making a personal visit to a prison inmate instead of carrying on official business.
The victim dubbed “Snow White” is Danish freelance newspaper reporter Anneke Jespersen. What was she doing in California in 1992 that brought her to the site of the L. A. riots? Contacting Anneke’s brother and drawing upon Chu’s computer search skills and database savvy, Harry hopes that the reporter’s trip to the First Gulf War theater shortly before her fateful visit to the U. S. might hold some clues.
And it does. Slowly, methodically, but also pushing the envelope of proper procedure, Harry connects her visits. He discovers how the first, which includes joining American servicemen for R & R on a Saudi ship, leads to the second. Then he discovers why the second leads to her Los Angeles death. . . .