Michael Connelly Essay - Critical Essays


Michael Connelly’s supreme creation is the haunted and tormented Los Angeles Police Department detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Through the character of Bosch, Connelly is able to portray much of the loneliness and despair of living in a violent, decadent, and surrealistic Los Angeles that is in many ways a modern embodiment of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Much of the corruption Bosch finds in his investigations is in the actual institutions: the Los Angeles Police Department, the press, and the film industry. It seems that the only way Connelly can expose this corruption is with an insider who is also a loner and a renegade: Hence the character of Harry Bosch. Many of those in the police bureaucracy are corrupt—guilty of cover-ups, shoddy investigations, and outright criminal behavior. The mentality seems to be to seek political gain rather than honesty or justice, and this is especially grating to a detective like Bosch.

One of the most common themes in Connelly’s writing is the warning issued by Nietzsche: “He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process. And when you stare persistently into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you.” Dealing with society’s monsters, Connelly seems to say, places one in great danger of becoming a monster. This is evident in Bosch, who, though not a monster, is an emotional train wreck. He has one goal in life—to catch criminals—and everything else in his life is subsumed by this. Bosch has lived much of his life believing his mother’s murder would never be solved, and when he solves it in The Last Coyote, the double trauma of knowing the details of his mother’s murder and the fact that it was related to high-powered political cover-ups causes Bosch to seriously consider retirement. He stares at the monsters, and he fears that he may become one, or already has.

Connelly is justly praised for his complex plots, surprise endings, and the clarity and power of his style, honed at his reporter’s desk. The amount of research he does is well known. Each of his novels has the ring of gritty truth, derived both from his own years of experience as a crime-beat reporter and from additional research into forensics, technology, autopsies, weapons, jazz performers, or whatever else is required by his plots. Plot details, even the most minute, are meticulously accurate and give an unusually heightened sense of reality. Especially noteworthy is Connelly’s Los Angeles: Many authors set their crime stories on the streets of Los Angeles, but Connelly’s detail—street names, highways, buildings, architectural types, neighborhood characteristics, and the archaeology of the La Brea Tar Pits—is unusual in its comprehensiveness and accuracy.

The Last Coyote

The Last Coyote, originally intended to be Harry Bosch’s swan song, has become one of Connelly’s most critically acclaimed novels. After throwing his commanding officer through a plate-glass window, Bosch is placed on extended...

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