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They don't get much more "noir" than this one
on December 22, 2000
Ever since I read Connelly's *The Black Echo*, the first of the Harry Bosch mysteries, I've been hooked on these wonderfully complex, fabulously written novels. Bosch is (predictably) "hard-boiled and melancholy, but with a heart of gold," as befits this venerable fictional genre. Yes, there are many, MANY cop/P.I. detective series out there, but in my estimation, Connelly's Bosch series is the best, and *Angels Flight* shows why.
The theme in this novel is the atmosphere of racial distrust and recriminations against the Los Angeles police that has emerged in the wake of the Rodney King cases and the O.J. Simpson trial. Connelly succeeds for the most part in capturing the tragic essence of what has been wrought by the legacy of police misconduct and the African American reaction to it in the city of angels.
Not surprisingly, he is most effective in presenting the police perspective here: the outrage and frustration at the deterioration of police credibilty in the community overall; the combination of anger and grudging admiration that a get-the-police black attorney might elicit from conscientious police professionals; the increasing disillusionment as the politicization of police affairs becomes ever more complete.
If there is a weakness in Connelly's adventuresome foray into political territory, it's related to the delicate and difficult race-related theme he has addressed here. To succeed totally in this endeavor, Connelly must navigate through some extremely tricky sociological issues, and it becomes apparent that he might be in a bit over his head in this regard. When attempting to provide the African American perspective on police presence and conduct in LA, for example, Connelly does a decent but not outstanding job. Clearly, here he is an "outsider."
This flaw is forgiveable, of course, in light of the fact that his principal task is to provide an engrossing police mystery. Here, he succeeds brilliantly, as always. Along the way, he presents a picture of contemporary society that is dark, frightening, almost hopeless. To say that this novel is "noir" is an understatement. Connelly's portrayal of human nature, contemporary police and civil politics, and the ongoing deterioration of "the California dream" in the city of angels is stunningly powerful. This is not a book that will appeal to the faint of heart.
As always, there is a thread in this novel that continues "the story" where it left off in his previous mystery in which Bosch was the protagonist. Consequently, whereas this book certainly can provide a can't-put-it-down read for those who have never read any of the previous Bosch mysteries, these books are best appreciated if they are read in chronological order, beginning with *The Black Echo*.
Currently, I've been reading Dennis Lehane and Robert Crais mysteries. These are terrific, but as I turn the pages I can't wait for the next Bosch novel to be released.