Veteran detective novelist Michael Connelly constructs two narratives in The Overlook. The first, overt narrative involves terrorists and the robbery of nuclear material that could be used in a terrorist attack. The other narrative underlies the first and involves what is by comparison an almost old-fashioned crime: a cold-blooded murder carried out for the sake of passion. The narratives run parallel to each other and unfold in little more than twelve hours.
The Overlook opens as Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch receives a midnight call from his supervisor, Lieutenant Larry Gandle. It seems that a homicide victim has been discovered at an overlook above Mulholland Dam. At the moment, Bosch is a member of Homicide Special, a branch of the Robbery-Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Although the Hollywood Division would normally have handled the crime, Bosch’s unit has been asked to take over the investigation, and Gandle has assigned the case to Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio “Iggy” Ferras.
After Bosch calls Ferras, he drives to the overlook, which is near his home, in his own car. There he discovers that the Hollywood detective waiting to hand over the case is his former partner, Jerry Edgar. The body appears to be that of Dr. Stanley Kent, discovered by a routine patrol investigating a car parked in a no parking zone. The body had been found lying face down in a clearing with two bullet woundsapparently .22 caliberin the back of the head, and the identification had been made through a wallet and a hospital identification tag on the body. As Bosch questions Edgar, it becomes clear that Edgar has done little to move the case forward.
A further complication arises when an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appears on the scene after Edgar leaves. To Bosch’s consternation, the agent is Rachel Walling, his sometime lover. Walling explains that she too had been called out in the middle of the night, and she proceeds to confirm the identification. Kent’s role as a medical physicist means that he has had access to the potentially deadly nuclear material cesium, and an initial search of his name by the LAPD on the National Crime Index Computer has alerted Walling’s office. Suspicious of the FBI’s involvement and of Walling’s obvious reluctance to tell him more, Bosch tricks her into revealing the truth. She and her partner had interviewed Kent the previous year to warn him of his vulnerability to terrorists.
At Kent’s house, Bosch and Walling find Kent’s wife Alicia lying on the bed, stripped, gagged, and with her wrists and ankles tied together behind her back. When she is revived, she tells them that two menone of them apparently Middle Easternforced their way into the house earlier in the evening. At this point, Walling’s partner Jack Brenner arrives, and as the three listen to Alicia Kent’s story they learn that the intruders have stolen her car and her husband’s .22 caliber revolver. A check of her e-mail reveals that they had also sent her husband a photograph of her on the bed as a means of blackmailing him into stealing a quantity of cesium. It appears that he was executed after following the intruders’ orders to bring the cesium to the overlook.
The first break in the case comes as Bosch learns in a phone call that Ferras has found a witness to the execution, Jesse Mitford. A young vagrant who has hitchhiked from Canada, Mitford had been sleeping in a deserted yard near the overlook and had seen and heard much of the murder. Afraid that the federal authorities will take Mitford under their control, Bosch checks him into a hotel under an alias but tells Brenner that he has let the young man go.
Ferras has been growing increasingly uncomfortable with his partner’s methods, but when the two revisit the Kent residence at dawn, Bosch gives Ferras further cause for alarm. An officious FBI agent guarding the house refuses them entry, and, frustrated that he is being shut out from his own investigation, Bosch easily overpowers the agentwhose identification reveals that he is Clifford Maxwelland handcuffs him. Bosch is puzzled by several seemingly unimportant details in the house, including a rectangular discoloration on the wall of the workout room where a poster or calendar might have hung, but does not know what to make of them. As the two detectives leave, Bosch tosses the keys to Maxwell’s cuffs on the floor where the agent will have to crawl to retrieve...
(The entire section is 1850 words.)