Monday, February 04, 2013

Reading what you like: Mysteries

I was out to breakfast with an old friend this past weekend, and our wide-ranging discussion touched, of course, on books and what we are reading. We also talked about people who don’t read at all (inconceivable), and about people who only read “literary” fiction (and what they’re missing). My friend, who knew me long before I became a librarian, semi-apologized for her taste in reading material (she reads only mysteries and thrillers), as if, now that I am a librarian, I would judge her for not having more refined tastes. I had two things to say to that:
  1. No one should judge anyone else for what they choose to read. Reading is of value no matter what. It’s where you gain a perspective on thoughts that didn’t originate with you; it’s also a valuable tool that can provide you with new language and concepts, new words, an instinctive (as opposed to learned) sense of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, and so much more. Ultimately, reading is where you get to express your sense of individuality, and choose what makes you happy, whether it’s comic books and graphic novels, a steamy romance, an exciting, action-packed thriller, or a literary masterpiece or classic.
  2. I love mysteries and thrillers! If she must be judged for reading them, then so must I. I also like many other genres--but to put it simply, I love to read, and so does my friend, and that gives us everything in common.
Once we got the generalities out of the way, we moved on to the specifics: Who are you reading, who have you read, and you should try.... I turned her on to Robert Crais (who could resist Elvis Cole and Joe Pike?), and she reminded me of a guy I haven’t visited in awhile, Michael Connelly’s lone wolf LAPD detective, Hieronymus (Harry for short) Bosch. So I took home his next-to-latest, The Drop, and prepared to be entertained. (His newest is The Black Box, but as with most new books, they're all checked out and holds have been placed. Fortunately for me, I wasn't yet that up to date!)

This one brings back Harry’s old nemesis, City Councilman Irvin Irving, whose son George has just been discovered at the bottom of a long drop off the Chateau Marmont’s 7th floor. But did he jump, or was he thrown off the balcony? Irving has somewhat inexplicably asked for Bosch to be assigned to the case, and Harry doesn’t know whether it’s because he’ll do a good job regardless (since to Harry, everyone is important or no one is important), or if Irving is still out to get him and sees this as an opportunity.

At the same time, Harry and his partner, David Chu, have been assigned another job out of the Open Unsolved Unit’s cold case files, and it’s a puzzler. DNA from an old murder has been matched to that of a convicted rapist, but there’s just one problem: The guy would have been eight years old when the crime was committed. So did the detectives originally assigned to the cold case mess up the DNA trail, potentially opening up half a dozen cases for question by defendants’ attornies?

Connelly never disappoints. The path to solving the cases is always multilayered and interesting, drawing the reader along with just the right amount of suspense and revelation. The dynamics of the cases aside, he always brings added complexity by providing us with an inside view of his detective’s motivations, blind spots, and weak spots, and gives a little something extra. The relationship between veteran Harry and his youthful, impatient, and somewhat resentful partner; the romantic interest that might or might not blossom for Harry (if he’ll allow it); and the relatively new challenge of living with and raising a teenage daughter all give richness to the plot.

I also wonder if this book gives a glimpse into the future: Harry has just been put on the DROP--the Deferred Retirement Option Plan--and given three years and three months before he must retire from the LAPD. Meanwhile, his daughter Maddie, age 15, has decided that she wants to follow in Dad’s footsteps when she grows up, by becoming a detective, and Harry is, in equal parts, proud and apprehensive. Do we have Connelly books starring Maddie Bosch in our future? (That would be cool.)

Parenthetically, I love the cameos on the TV show "Castle," wherein Rick Castle plays poker with real-life authors James Patterson and Michael Connelly (and Stephen J. Cannell, before his untimely and much-mourned demise). I wish somebody would also give us a fictional poker game that includes Harry Bosch, Alex Cross, and Shane Scully, or maybe Mitch Rapp, Jack Reacher, and Joe Pike! Jason Bourne? Who would YOU choose? (And who would win?!)    

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