I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction but pick one up now and then. I write an urban fantasy series (The Garden of Abracadabra) and will launch a science fantasy series (Chrome Cobra) in 2014, both of which employ crime fiction tropes. So I like to verify my own research into police procedure with books that inhabit the nitty-gritty realm of cops and crime.

In The Concrete Blonde, Michael Connelly expertly sets up a killer premise: On a hot tip, Detective Harry Bosch bursts into a seedy apartment of the serial killer he’s been tracking down and shoots him, an unarmed naked man, dead. Flash-forward four years, and Bosch has been sued by the wife of the decedent for excessive police force. Just as he’s going to trial, a note identical to the notes left by the dead serial killer is dropped off at the police station indicating where a victim has been buried in concrete. The police collect the body, which has all the identical signatures of the dead killer, but the victim was murdered after Bosch shot him. Did Bosch kill the wrong man? Is the Dollmaker still out there?

How can the reader resist?

Be forewarned: We swiftly slide into the sordid underworld of prostitution, pornography, and psychopathic sexual killers. Everything you ever wanted to know about this world, Connelly shares in abundant detail.

Like Raymond Chandler and Sue Grafton, Connelly grounds the realistic story in precise details about the fascinating complex city of Los Angeles. A crime journalist before he embarked on fiction, the author has got the police vibe nailed down. And what could be a hard sell—Bosch is a numbed-out laconic cop obsessed with apprehending evil, defending himself for doing his job, and defensive about his own sordid past—is nicely tempered by his lover, a sunny, demonstrative woman who endures his silences.

I have a few niggling complaints. Connelly is capable of lovely insights (“Hope was the lifeblood of the heart”) but sometimes trots out awkward jarring sentences that feel careless. He sometimes loses control of a scene, such as when the psychiatrist-expert in sexual deviation delivers long info dumps to the unresponsive Bosch.

So there you have it, my friends. Four and a half stars. If you like to relax with murder and depravity and the brave damaged souls who fight it, you can’t do much better than Michael Connelly.

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