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Posted on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 7:06 a.m.

New Harry Bosch novel another crime classic from Michael Connelly

By Robin Agnew

The Drop
Michael Connelly

Little Brown, $27.99

It's been too long since Harry Bosch had the stage to himself — since 2009's "9 Dragons" — and though he shared the stage with Mickey Haller in 2010's "The Reversal," it's not the same as a pure Bosch book.

It seems the time away was to Harry's benefit, as this is one of the best books in what is really a classic American crime series. While Connelly's prose might not have the poetic lyricism of his hero's, Raymond Chandler's, he has Chandler beat all hands down when it comes to plot. And when it comes to the moody, lone wolf cop Harry Bosch, Connelly has created one of the great American detectives.

This book has two threads — one covers the death of the son of Harry’s long time enemy, Irvin Irving, now a powerful L.A. city councilman; and one is a cold case hit where the blood on a victim matches up to someone who was 8 years old at the time of the murder. The grown man is now a convicted sex offender, but he obviously wasn’t killing women at age 8, so Harry and his hapless new partner, Detective Chu, are on the case.

Chu is used to working only cold cases with no actual bodies, so when he and Harry are called to the scene of Irving’s son’s death, in a fall from the roof of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Beverly Hills, he’s shaken by the sight of a real dead body. It’s up to Harry and Chu to find out if the younger Irving’s death was a suicide or a homicide.

Irving has requested Bosch specifically, and Harry is puzzled by this, until he sits down with the grieving father, who says to him: "You said once that everybody counts or nobody counts. This would put that to the test. Does the son of your enemy count?... Will you be relentless for him?"

Nobody is as good as Connelly at putting a moral conundrum in such concise terms. The crisp phrasing and plotting make any Connelly book an almost-impossible-to-stop reading experience.

As Harry and Chu get to work, the cold case niggles at him, and there again Harry has a moral dilemma. Does finding the person who created a present day sex offender make him less relentless in his pursuit of the killer? Like any cop (and most people), someone who abuses young children is the lowest of the low, and it's with an effort that Harry brings his considerable, relentless skill set to this case as well.

Both cases pay off, each in surprising ways, and one of Connelly’s other skills is in writing a very believable, detailed police procedural. He began his career as a crime reporter for the L.A. Times, and those skills are in evidence as he writes about the police working across the street from the offices of the Times. Much of the slang rings very true, as do the politics which play a large part in this book, thanks to the Councilman's city connections.

Lightly threaded through the story is the inclusion of Harry’s now 15-year-old daughter who, thanks to the events of "9 Dragons," now lives with him. The juggling act he must perform as a busy single father is a believable one, as he second guesses the amount of time he’s able to spend with her.

There’s also a possible new love interest, also fraught with conflict, so Harry’s life moving forward continues to be interesting. He’s even beginning to think about retirement, which for any reader of crime fiction, would truly be a heartbreak.

Here’s hoping Bosch is on the case for a long time to come.

Robin Agnew is the co-owner of Aunt Agatha's bookshop.