'The Wrong Side of Goodbye' By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, 400 pages, $29
The title of Michael Connelly's thrilling 23rd novel about LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch -- "The Wrong Side of Goodbye" -- is fraught with meaning for the characters.
For Harry, "The Wrong Side of Goodbye" means leaving his job as a police detective with the LAPD, from which he recently retired. It wasn't just a job for Harry, but a mission to seek justice.
Harry has found a way to right that goodbye — he's become a volunteer reserve officer for the small, cash-strapped town of San Fernando, "an island city within the megalopolis of Los Angeles." The lack of a paycheck doesn't bother Harry because the job offers something he values more: a detective's badge and access to the town's unsolved cases. He immediately begins to investigate a series of unsolved rapes going back years.
On the side, Harry is working as a private investigator, careful not to let his side job and his position with the San Fernando police overlap. His latest client also knows about being on "The Wrong Side of Goodbye." Billionaire Whitney Vance pays Harry $10,000 to just discuss launching an investigation. At 85 and in poor health, Vance wants Harry to find out what happened to a young woman he got pregnant 65 years earlier who disappeared from his life. Now Vance wants to know if he has an heir.
During the past several years, Harry has specialized in cold cases, no matter how old the leads are. He knows these investigations start with the smallest of clues before building to a solution.
In each novel, Connelly has dug deeper into Harry's psyche, as he skillfully does in "The Wrong Side of Goodbye" by showing how Harry transitions to a new role. Without the authority of his LAPD badge, Harry has to prove himself again -- to the younger officers who think of him as the old guy and to his new supervisors who aren't convinced he's a good fit for their small town. The investigation for Vance also leads to a personal connection that Harry wasn't expecting as he remembers his years during the Vietnam War. Connelly continues to do justice to his most famous character.
Although the plot succumbs to some predictability, Connelly provides enough surprising twists to keep the suspense high and the story believable. Connelly's melding of the police procedural, private detective novel and intense character study remains solid. Harry isn't with the LAPD anymore, but readers will be glad to know he is still on the job.
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.