In the hard-boiled American detective novel genre - which is different from the British mystery genre, and the thriller genre, and a number of other genres that people sometimes and misguidedly lump together - Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch is a singular creation. While he has spent much of his career working as a homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, Bosch shares a characteristic with the creations of such authors as Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and Robert B. Parker - a powerful ethic that believes in justice, and that dictates his decisions and moves far more than rules and laws and superior officers.
Another remarkable thing about the Bosch novels is that they take place in real time - he was born in 1950, served in Vietnam, and has aged in the books at the same pace as he would in life. This has allowed Connelly to use the novels to create an expansive and overarching narrative that uses Bosch as a prism through which to view Southern California, changes to the perception of justice and the administering of law and order. Which is not to say that Bosch is in any way a cipher. He's not. From his house perched in the Hollywood Hills (paid for by money he earned as a consultant on a miniseries about one of his cases) to his ancient Jeep Cherokee to the the jazz he plays on turntable that serves as a kind of soundtrack to his life, Bosch is a unique combination of romance and disillusionment, believing in his own ability to find and deliver justice, but without much faith in a system that constantly disappoints him.
All of which is a long lad-up to "Desert Star," the latest Bosch novel, out just this week. As Bosch has aged - he's now in his early seventies, and enjoys "being the cranky old ex-cop in the neighborhood whom people were afraid to approach" - Connelly has teamed him up with Renée Ballard, a much younger detective who made her debut in 2017's "The Late Show." The Ballard connection allows Bosch to continue to function in law enforcement, sometimes as mentor, sometimes as much more, without stretching credibility or time lines.
In "Desert Star," Ballard has been put in charge of a cold case unit, and asks Bosch to join as a volunteer; she believes that his experience and instincts will serve the unit well. He agrees, understanding that the top priority will be a case with political implications, though he also wants the opportunity to reengage with a murder case from decades before that he was unable to solve - the brutal murder of a family of four.
Connelly's magic is that we know everything we need to know by page eight, and then we're off to the races in a novel that is the very definition of a page turner, filled with intrigue, a smattering of violence, an occasional dissection of social conventions, and a melancholy portrait of an aging lion who continues to believe, despite considerable evidence, that "everybody counts, or nobody counts."
"Desert Star" is great Connelly and great Bosch. It manages to be simultaneously propulsive and elegiac. Get it and read it.
Back in the seventies and the eighties, author Gregory Mcdonald published nine mystery novels about IM Fletcher, known as "Fletch," a sometime investigative reporter. I haven't read them since they first came out, and remember having mixed emotions about two movies featuring the character that starred Chevy Chase: Fletch was pretty good, and Fletch Lives was something of a mess, probably because they did't use any of McDonald's original material.
Now, we've got Confess, Fletch from Showtime, starring Jon Hamm in the title role. It strikes me as closer in tone to what I remember of the books, and Hamm is amiably charming as Fletch. The movies also benefits from supporting turns by Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri (as police detectives), Marcia Gay Harden (very funny as an Italian countess), and especially John Slattery (Hamm's old "Mad Men" costar, who here plays his former editor and boss).
Confess, Fletch isn't great moviemaking, but it is both fun and funny - a mystery in a minor key that is a comfortable way to spend 98 minutes.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.