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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Little, Brown, 400 pages, $28

Although “The Burning Room” showcases Michael Connelly’s terse and compact style, the book weighs in at 400 pages. That’s because Connelly presents two full stories, both featuring Los Angeles cold case detective Harry Bosch and his new partner, Lucy Soto.

A mariachi player was hit by a bullet twenty years ago and finally died from it. Twenty years ago the injury was attributed to a stray shot from a gang fight. When a postmortem dislodges the bullet, it is discovered that it came from a rifle, which tells Harry that it probably was not a gang-related shot. And, upon further investigation, Harry and Lucy conclude that the dead man was not the original target! After twenty years, exactly what clues possibly could be left?

For the second story, Lucy reveals to Harry her traumatic childhood secret. She was a poor child who was in daycare in the basement of an apartment building when it caught on fire. The daycare provider and several children died, but Lucy survived. At the core of why she became a police officer is her determination to some day figure out who caused the fire. Was it drug-related, as was determined by the police twenty years ago? The perpetrator(s) was never found.

Looking at the case material through fresh eyes, and with a certain amount of serendipity in both cases, provides Harry and Lucy with aha! moments. 

Skirting procedural correctness many times, Harry may be teaching Lucy some bad habits. Do as I say, not as I do, seems to be his lesson. The reasoning behind pairing an old-timer like Harry with a newcomer like Lucy didn’t quite have that method in mind.

Although twenty years distance provides some insurmountable obstacles to finally solving the cases, Harry and Lucy lift the heavy weight necessary to provide satisfying conclusions. Connelly’s hypnotic storytelling and insider’s look at police procedures is also satisfying.

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