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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011

Politics, police work mix in 'The Drop'

BY OLINE H. COGDILL
(FORT LAUDERDALE) SUN SENTINEL

Michael Connelly's novels, especially those about LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, have never been simple police procedurals. Instead, Connelly's excellent books mirror contemporary issues and Los Angeles' vagaries while being at the heart, a character study of Bosch for whom justice is more than a word.

The Drop, the 17th in this series, continues those high standards as Connelly shows how politics seeps into police work, tainting investigations, crime scenes, and even friendships. The Drop also looks at the challenges of being a single father, maintaining relationships, and looking at the end of a career. Unlike TV and movies about the police, The Drop illustrates how the police juggle various investigations that stretch days and even weeks.

Bosch shared the action with attorney Mickey Haller in 2010's The Reversal, but the last time Connelly focused solely on the detective Bosch was Nine Dragons (2008). While the team of Bosch and Haller is provocative for many reasons, not the least being their shared history as half brothers, there is a special pleasure in watching Bosch work cases by himself, deal with a partner, his supervisors, and internal politics.

And the case that takes priority in The Drop is loaded with politics -- or, as Bosch calls it, "high jingo. ... The confluence of police and politics." Working out of the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, Bosch and his partner David Chu are handed a new investigation. The detectives are called to the historic Chateau Marmont where George Irving, a high-powered lobbyist and son of city councilman Irv Irving, may have committed suicide. The older Irving has long been Bosch's nemesis and has tried to have the detective fired numerous times. Irving believes his son was murdered and, surprisingly, insists that Bosch handle the case.

Meanwhile, Bosch and Chu work an old case. A recent DNA hit connects a college student's 1989 murder with Clayton Pell, a convicted sex offender. But Clayton could not have committed the crime because he was only 8 years old at the time. Has the DNA been compromised?

Bosch and Chu work the two investigations, both of which are steeped in politics. Only the detectives put crime-solving first.

The Drop is resplendent with the details about police work and Los Angeles that Connelly wraps into an exciting plot. Bosch is quite clear-eyed about the LAPD hierarchy, refusing to allow its demands to interfere with his cases. His former police partner Kiz Rider, now with the chief of police's office, keeps him informed, but Bosch has no illusions about what happens when friendship and ambition collide.

Connelly still finds new depths to Bosch, introduced in the 1992 Edgar-winning The Black Echo. The Drop has several realistic and even lovely scenes of Bosch with his daughter, Maddie, now a teenager. While he is more comfortable at crime scenes, Maddie is definitely his priority. Bosch is not just a devoted father but a parent who listens and is preparing his daughter to be an adult. At the same time, Bosch's retirement looms and he has three more years on the force, though that might be extended.

Connelly continues to show why he is one of the best -- and most consistent -- living crime writers in The Drop. Three more years with Harry Bosch isn't enough. We hope he gets that extension.



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