Each strand of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller moves the novel’s title, “Drop,” in a fresh direction. LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, now on his second tour of duty with the Open-Unsolved Unit, begins investigating a 1989 murder after new tests on old evidence — a small drop of blood — reveal a match with a convicted predator. Before he can pursue that lead, however, Bosch finds himself pulled onto a higher-profile case: A city councilman’s son jumped, fell or was dropped from a seventh-floor hotel balcony. And back in the office, Bosch receives disappointing news about his Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP). That imperiled plan has kept him in the field and maintained the income he desperately needs as a newly single parent to a 15-year-old daughter (a relationship that really blossoms in this book).
As in the best of Connelly’s books, few things are what they first appear. That DNA match has fingered a suspect who couldn’t have committed the crime. The grieving councilman is a noted LAPD critic (and Bosch nemesis), which intensifies the tension when evidence of political corruption points in the councilman’s direction. And Bosch’s concerns about staying on the job are balanced against his recognition that he may be suffering “a drop-off of skills.”
Stark, provocative questions thread through the story: Can a person be born bad? Do evil acts make evil people? How are the parents’ sins visited on their children? And what about the flip side of that question?
Connelly’s lean, just-the-facts style makes for crisp dialogue and a brisk, info-driven plot. But brisk storytelling can also become brusque storytelling. A romantic subplot involving Bosch and an attractive therapist should have enriched the novel much more than it does. Connelly inexplicably chooses not to dramatize a key conversation, sidelining the therapist’s tale in favor of curtly summarizing it. That afterthought approach saps the encounter of both high tension and true moral weight.
A haunted quality has always been one of the chief attractions of Connelly’s series and of Bosch’s character, and this latest entry hardly fails to deliver. But because both author and character shy away from some big issues, the novel ends up not being truly good to the last drop.
Taylor reviews mysteries and thrillers frequently for The Post.
By Michael Connelly
388 pp. $27.99