The Black Box, Michael Connelly’s 25th novel, comes 20 years after his first, The Black Echo, which introduced readers to Los Angeles detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch. These days, Bosch is working with the LAPD’s Open/Unsolved Unit, and he decides to pursue a 20-year-old case that was originally his: the murder of Danish photojournalist Anneke Jespersen during the 1992 riots. Bosch never got a chance to investigate thoroughly–but, as regular readers know, Bosch never gives up. As he pursues the reason Jespersen came to Los Angeles in the first place, he finds himself investigating war crimes dating back to Desert Storm. Searching for the “black box” that will reveal the recorded secrets of Jespersen’s murder, Bosch also lands (not unusually) on the wrong side of the police department’s leadership.
All the strengths that Connelly’s readers have come to expect are on display. He employs an expert sense of place in evoking a gritty, stark Los Angeles, and the mood of the novel is dark and brooding. The pacing is taut, the characters well developed. Bosch’s side interests in jazz artists like Art Pepper and baseball greats like Casey Stengel provide depth and layers to his personality. Series readers will enjoy the updates on ongoing story lines, as Bosch’s daughter, Madeline, continues to mature and his relationship with girlfriend Hannah struggles along. But like all Connelly’s atmospheric, fully realized novels, The Black Box can also be read as an entirely satisfying stand-alone mystery.