I’ve been reading Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series for nearly 20 years at this point, a fact that’s driven home not only by each new book, but by the character himself, who has aged in more or less real time along with the series. What’s more, Bosch has continued to evolve over time, not just as a character, but as a policeman; indeed, over the course of the last couple of books, Bosch finally retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, leaving him to find a new way to define himself. Because what is Harry Bosch without the need to pursue justice and right wrongs?
And so, in The Wrong Side of Goodbye, which is not just a great Harry Bosch novel, but just a plain great police procedural by one of the best in the business, we find Harry working for the San Fernando Police Department part-time, helping a smaller community with its more minor issues, assisting in clearing some older cases, and picking up occasional side gigs that call for investigatory work. What that means is that, at any given point, Harry Bosch has quite a bit going on – in this case, a private gig helping a business legend track down a possible illegitimate heir, an active police investigation into a serial rapist, and his private life as a father. And once you add into this the way that the private gig means diving back into the memories of Vietnam for Harry, that complicates things even further.
In lesser hands, this could easily feel overstuffed or cluttered, but Connelly makes it work, turning Bosch’s juggling of all of these threads into part of the text, and (thankfully) resisting the all-too-common urge to make them all connected to each other. Yes, some of the stress from one can bleed into the other, but this isn’t one of those thrillers where the serial rapist is secretly working against the heir or something; instead, it’s a book about police work, as Bosch runs down his leads carefully and methodically, talking to witnesses, running the tapes, and checking his evidence, and using his experience to help him read the situations. It’s easy to forget how satisfying that can be as a read – just the act of following someone as they do their job running down a case – and The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a reminder that Connelly hasn’t been a bestseller for all these years for no reason whatsoever. Indeed, The Wrong Side of Goodbye is one of the best books he’s written in a while, given how it plays with the cold case aspects of the recent books, dives into Harry’s emotional past, immerses you in police work, and lets each play out in an intelligent and interesting way.
The result is a great read, by any standards; the search for the heir plays to the “cold cases” aspects of the series that were so gripping, to say nothing of seeing the long shadows of Vietnam casts over even the second and third generations out. The rapist section of the book is gripping and fascinating, diving into complex police work and showing how a simple intuition can turn everything around, and giving us some nice dramatic reveals along the way. And Bosch’s personal life, as always, is a joy to read, as we see this lone wolf who’s become the parent of a college-age woman. Add to that Connelly’s gift for tapping into the zeitgeist – here, playing with racial politics both personal and economic – and you have a truly great entry in the series. How many authors could be on their nineteenth book in a set and still have it be this good?