The Closers, Michael Connelly

Little Brown, 2005, 403 pages, C$36.95 hc, ISBN 0-316-73494-2

Rejoice: Harry Bosch is back on the job, and so is Connelly. After a few uneven adventures featuring Bosch as a none-too-comfortable Private Investigator, there’s a sense that everything is back on the right track as Bosch re-integrates the LAPD after the events of the previous volume. He’s not being put back on the homicide table, though: this time, he’s been assigned to the “Open-Unsolved” unit that seeks to close historical files left open. Partnered once again with Kizmin Rider, Bosch is asked to use his experience and his dogged determination to close the book on unsolved mysteries.

This initially seems easier than expected: As Connelly explains, investigative techniques and tools have gotten much better in the past few decades. It’s now possible to analyze evidence kept in storage and match it against suspects. Thousands of such pieces still haven’t been processed in the labs, and as The Closers begins, it appears that one such piece has produced a match: a flesh scraping taken from a gun used in the murder of a teenager fifteen years earlier. The DNA matches that of a known criminal with ties to the girl’s neighborhood, which is even worse considering that the girl was biracial and the criminal has avowed neo-nazi sympathies.

But, of course, nothing is that simple in a Michael Connelly novel. There will be complications.

From the first few pages, Connelly proves that he’s back in top shape. As skilled as ever in entertainingly presenting exposition, Connelly quickly puts together Bosch’s new life: The office he works in, the easy partnership with Kizmin Rider, the renewed antagonism with Irving (“You are a retread. But you know what happens with a retread? It comes apart at the seams.” [P.41]), the atmosphere inside the LAPD and, perhaps more importantly, the numerous details of an investigation abandoned before a satisfactory conclusion. The DNA match may be suggestive, but Bosch wants to make sure that they’re after the right person.

Unfortunately, they find out that there’s a lot more riding on this case than a simple unsolved murder. The case attracts political attention, which puts Bosch right where readers like him best: in the middle of a fight for his professional life, stuck between factions inside his own department. Not that this is the only kind of difficult situation that Bosch encounters during the investigation: a lengthy sequence following him as he goes undercover as a white supremacist proves to be one of the book’s highlights.

The twists and turns are solid, and it’s interesting to see that the number of violent sequences is kept to a minimum: The Closers creates its suspense through sheer procedural suspense, as clues are tracked, details are uncovered and suspects are interrogated. It ends as many Connelly novels do, with Bosch as the chump of someone else’s deals.

But even as it brings Bosch out of the cold, The Closers feels like a return to top form. Faithful readers won’t be surprised to find out that this novel is back to a third-person narration, leaving Bosch’s inner monologue to his off-LAPD career. It’s not a bad thing, since one of the complaints about Bosch two retirement novels was that it brought us perhaps a bit too closely inside the mind of Connelly’s taciturn character. The narration properly places Bosch farther away from the reader, where he can be cloaked with an intriguing sense of mystery: we don’t need to know what he’s thinking.

And yet, it’s a sens of belonging, of righting past wrongs that ends up playing an important role in The Closers. Using Bosch to the best of his abilities as a mystery-solver, Connelly touches upon the nature of criminal-fiction closure and shows that he hasn’t run out of stories to tell about his best-known character.

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