Everybody counts, or nobody counts. That's always been the credo of LAPD homicide cop Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch. And that credo has never been more seriously tested than in The Drop.
As Michael Connelly's novel opens, the aging but still manly Bosch learns that he will not get entirely what he wants from the LAPD's Deferred Retirement Option Plan (get it?). He still craves the work and needs the money now that he is responsible for his teen-age daughter, Maddie (for how this came to pass, you might want to read 2009's Nine Dragons first).
Bosch is caught up in two simultaneous investigations – a cold-case sex murder and the high-profile death of a city councilman's son. The sex murder, perhaps the work of a serial killer, occurred in 1989. Advances in DNA profiling link it to one Clayton Pell, a very damaged lowlife.
But there's a hitch. Pell was only 8 at the time, and the case threatens to blow up a lot of convictions based on DNA evidence. Bosch and his relatively new partner work at that mystery while their own relationship gets very rocky; Bosch is by nature a lone wolf, and has to work hard at trust and at honouring lines of authority.
The live case is what Bosch refers to as "high jingo," the undue intrusion of dirty politics into an investigation. The lobbyist son of Councilman Irvin Irving takes a header from an upper story of Hollywood's ultrahip Chateau Marmont (hangout of celebrities and, infamously, where John Belushi died). Did he fall, or was he pushed? The influential Irving, a former cop who now has it in for the department, asks for Bosch, whom he dislikes, to investigate. Of course, the disdain is mutual and watching the oppositional Bosch push back against a bullying politico is one of The Drop's many treats.
Among the other treats in this complex web are Connelly's ability to construct seamless links between plot strands while springing the occasional plot twist on us, and Bosch's developing relationship with Maddie, who is showing distinct signs of the sort of inquisitive and probing mind a good cop needs.
And, of course, there's always Harry, a now-canonical figure in the modern policier genre – an often abrupt, sometimes violent, usually obstreperous man who walks the mean streets of his city, motivated by a simple moral code, that his role is "to speak for victims." Which he does – eloquently, in his way.
Vintage Bosch. Vintage Connelly. This one counts.
Martin Levin is Books editor of The Globe and Mail.