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Book Review - "The Burning Room" by Michael Connelly

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. 

9780316225939_p0_v4_s260x420Harry Bosch is back with Michael Connelly’s novel, The Burning Room. Readers will not be disappointed in this thrilling story that has Bosch at the twilight of his LAPD career mentoring a “mod squad” cop, full of ambition, vim, and vigor. As with his previous novels Connelly has Bosch being the victim’s advocate and always thinking “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

This book differs a bit in that Connelly has Bosch attempting to solve not one, but two cold cases as he works in the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit. Because the murder rate is significantly down in Los Angeles there is more manpower devoted to solving crimes that are decades old. The first case is highly charged and politically sensitive that involves a former Mayor who is now a possible Gubernatorial candidate. He used the case of Orlando Merced to promote his career. Merced, shot by a sniper, survived in a wheelchair with a bullet lodged in his spine. He died ten years later from complications, and Harry knows that the bullet can be the key to finding the shooter. Making matters more complex is the possible connection between this case, an arson blaze, and two robberies. Bosch’s new partner, Lucia (Lucy) Soto is investigating on her own time the deaths of a number of children killed in a fire. Although she was one of the lucky ones that survived, her life changed forever. After finding out Soto’s involvement in the Bonnie Brae killings Harry is willing to go along with her, bending some rules in order to have the cases intertwined. The book takes the reader on a journey as Soto and Bosch search for clues to finding the culprits.

Connelly noted to blackfive.net, “The Los Angeles murder rate is way down. Their detective bureaus and staffing was built on the larger number of killings. They shifted to working on unsolved murders that are benefitted by all this new technology. When I started writing about Harry and the Cold Case squad I think there were six or eight detectives which was very realistic because I had access to it. Now its way bigger, like 24 to 28. I understood that in solving cold cases sometimes it could be very unsatisfying since both the victim and the perpetrator are already dead. Murders are cleared but tons of people do not necessarily go to jail. What is important is that family members get closure. This pretty much motivates Harry and the real homicide detectives.”

Bosch is paired with a new partner, Lucy Soto, who can best be described as a female Harry Bosch. Although having no previous homicide experience, she is seen as a young and shining star in the LAPD. She matches Harry’s dedication; coming to work early, leaving late, and following the evidence no matter where it leads. They are both willing to be less than candid with their superiors and are not beyond upsetting high-profile people. Harry is willing to mentor her because he sees a lot of himself in Soto while Lucy is very willing to learn and listen to his words of knowledge.

Connelly see similarities, “What I liked about this book is how Harry picks up that Lucy, his new partner, has a sense of mission like he has. It has been rare that he has come across anybody, any partner, that has the same sense and has been formed by a past drama that can rival Harrys. When he picks up on that he wants to pass his mission on and to share his knowledge with her. People do that with those who are like minds. Lucy can continue on as a cop and Harry can be in the background as a mentor. Especially since it is very clear from the last few books his time is up with the badge, but not as a literary character. I planted a number of seeds in the last three or four books that can show his continuation in some way. It does not necessarily have to be Harry Bosch up front.”

Fans of Harry Bosch will be able to get multiple doses. Besides The Burning Room, there is a new series being produced by Amazon that will premiere in February of next year. It can be a binger’s delight as they see Harry “live” starting with the ninth story in the Bosch series, City of Bones. Also, the next Connelly book will include Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller, and Lucy Soto.

The Burning Room is a fast-moving and engrossing police procedural. The interplay between Bosch and Soto is very dramatic. Readers will be riveted to the storyline, but also learn about forensics, Los Angeles history, investigative techniques, and when to say good-bye to a job. Anyone who wants an exciting novel with a fascinating ending should read this book.