The Black Ice (Harry Bosch #2), by Michael Connelly

The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»Bosch leaned back against the tree and watched the driver open the door for her. Then he lit a cigarette and watched as the sleek black machine carried her out through the gate and left him alone with the dead.«

This is the second Harry Bosch novel I read and it surpasses its already strong predecessor in many aspects.

The story begins on Christmas night, when Harry discovers that a fellow officer, Calexico Moore, has apparently committed suicide in a seedy motel. Harry is suspicious of the circumstances and decides to investigate on his own, despite the orders from his superiors to stay away. He soon uncovers a web of corruption, drug trafficking, and murder that involves not only Moore, but also a mysterious drug lord, who is behind a new and deadly drug called Black Ice.

The writing is much improved compared to the first Bosch novel: Connelly has refined his style and skill, and has created a more polished and engaging narrative. The writing is more rounded and even and also more vivid and descriptive. Connelly uses a variety of techniques, such as dialogue, action, flashback, and foreshadowing, to create a dynamic and suspenseful story. He also uses rich and realistic details to bring the setting and the characters to life.

The pacing has also greatly improved: Gone are any unnecessary or boring parts; instead, there’s a consistent and smooth flow of the story. The pacing is fast enough to keep the reader interested and excited, but not too fast to lose the coherence, cohesion, and logic of the plot.

The pacing also balances well between the two levels of the story: the private and the professional. Connelly gives enough relevant context and background information to explain Harry’s thoughts and actions, and to show how his personal life affects his work, and vice versa. The private and the professional levels are nicely intertwined and work brilliantly together, creating a more complex and realistic character for Harry, and a more satisfying and rewarding reading experience for the reader.

I still love Bosch’s integrity and loyalty: When his investigation makes him visit Mexico, he’s warned of the local corruption and told not to trust any cop. And yet, Harry is cautious but trusts his instincts which, ultimately, lets him overcome his institution’s inherent racism and xenophobia.

»“Right,” Bosch said. “I get it. No matter what goes wrong, it’s my ass. I got it. I also have a vest in my trunk. He can use yours. I like my own.”«

One might criticise some of Harry’s decisions, of course. Most importantly a certain a bold and brave choice at the very end of the novel but thinking about it, that decision was not only fully within Harry’s character (which, in itself, would be insufficient to justify it) but it ultimately serves everyone involved and sees true justice done.

It was a realistic and fitting conclusion to the story, as it reflected the complexity and ambiguity of the situation. Harry did not take the easy or conventional way out, but he followed his instincts and his conscience, even if it meant losing his reputation and his friends. I think that this decision made Harry a more interesting and admirable character, and also a more human one. Harry is not a perfect hero, but he is a true one.

»Irving finally turned around to face him again.
“You are right, Bosch. I really don’t understand you. Why risk everything for nothing? You see? It raises my concerns about you all over again. You don’t play for the team. You play for yourself.”
Bosch looked steadily at Irving and didn’t smile, though he wanted to. Irving had paid him a fine compliment, though the assistant chief would never realize it.

“The Black Ice” is a very clever and complex story which is told elegantly by Connelly. Once again, a small drawback is the age of this novel: Written in the 90s, there still are no mobile phones, typewriters are still in use, etc..
Due to the dense and extremely coherent atmosphere, the wonderfully designed tension arc, and the balanced pacing, I was able to simply overlook it.

Five out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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