There’s often something of a stigma attached to the detective genre, especially in regards to those series in which a new story is pumped out nearly every year, and in its 20th year and 18th instalment, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series could easily fall victim to this. However, as one of the giants of the genre, one expects slightly more of Connelly than cheap holiday reading. How then, does his latest instalment fare up?
The Black Box follows detective Harry Bosch as he attempts to bring a twenty-year old case to a close. It opens in 1992, with Los Angeles crippled by the Rodney King riots and Bosch investigating the murder of a young Danish photojournalist. However, in the chaos of the night, the case was never solved. Now twenty years later, he is finally given the chance to re-open it.
The most important aspect of good detective fiction is a gripping mystery, and thankfully, The Black Box delivers on this. Bosch’s investigation takes him through many narrative twists and turns, which (for the most part) abide by the rules of common sense. Granted, it does occasionally fall victim to crime novel clichés, such as the dogged detective who overlooks the rules in his pursuit of justice and his boss getting angry with him for doing so, but these are never so large an issue that they detract significantly from the story, and for the most part they can be ignored.
Another area where The Black Box struggles slightly is that of character development. Bosch’s relationship with his partner, John Chu, never seems quite authentic, and Connelly goes into little depth in regards to how Bosch interacts with his girlfriend. These characters end up feeling rather flat as a result. That’s not to say that all the supporting characters are two-dimensional though; Bosch’s daughter is given time to develop and even ends up one of the novel’s more interesting figures. If Connelly chooses to retire Harry Bosch in the next few years, it would be easy to see her becoming the series’ new protagonist.
The Black Box, then, is a far cry from typical crime novel trash. It may not be perfect, but it’s certainly an entertaining read.