Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Blood Work by Michael Connelly

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters; outstanding mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Retired agent
Leads us through a twisty case
Hang on and enjoy

Pulls You in as Story Gets More Complicated

While I still have a long way to go to get caught up on Michael Connelly’s books, I’ve already learned to buckle up when I start one because you can never predict where the story will go based on how it starts.  There is no better example of that than Blood Work, a mostly standalone novel from the late 1990’s.

This book introduces us to Terry McCaleb, a former FBI agent who was forced to retire early due to heart problems.  Against all odds thanks to a rare blood type, he gets the heart transplant he needs.  The book opens two months after the procedure.  Things are looking good that his body will accept this heart.  Of course, it helps that he is taking it easy – spending his days fixing up the boat he inherited from his father.

Things change one day when he returns from his morning walk to find Graciela Rivers waiting for him.  She is there asking Terry to solve her sister’s murder.  Gloria was killed in a convenience store robbery.  Terry tries to explain that he isn’t interested until Graciela pulls him in with one final revelation – his new heart was Gloria’s heart.

Naturally, the police aren’t that interested in talking to an outsider, much less a former FBI agent.  Still, Terry manages to get enough information to start his own investigation.  Is there more to Gloria’s death than there first appears?  Can Terry figure out what happened?

Obviously, since this is a Michael Connelly book, there is much more to the case than it first appears.  If I told you where the book wound up (don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything), you’d probably never believe me.  Yet each piece of the puzzle leads logically into the next one.  In fact, my mind was blown a couple of times by where the book went and how it was set up.  The plotting is wonderful, and the pacing is superb.  The book held my attention the entire way through.

All of the characters in this book are brand new, but they are all strong.  By the time the book is over, I felt like we’d gotten to know them very well.  A couple of the supporting players come across as cliché, but I’m sure that’s a factor of how much page time they get, and if they’d gotten more, they would have been more fully fleshed out.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is pretty much still a standalone.  However, it still fits into the overall work that Michael Connelly is creating.  Since Terry is a former FBI agent, there is reference to The Poet, which involved that agency.  While he has yet to appear anywhere on page, we get another reference to Mickey Haller.  Terry McCaleb himself would pop up as a supporting characters in a Harry Bosch novel that would come out a few years later.  I can’t wait to get to that one for an update.  (At least I hope it’s a good update.)

I listened to the audio book while traveling over Memorial Day.  I was actually a bit disappointed when I saw that Dick Hill was the narrator since I find he can be annoying at times.  However, this time he behaved himself outside of one or two overly acted lines.  For the rest of the book, he did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life.

It really is easy to see why Michael Connelly has the reputation and fan base he does.  If you have missed Blood Work, fix that today.  This is an outstanding mystery that will keep you turning pages.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.


  1. Enjoyed your review, Mark. I haven't read the book, but I've seen the Eastwood adaptation several times. The film is well done, altho I do have a problem with the opening scene, which I'm curious as to whether it's from the book. Eastwood has a heart attack while chasing a suspect on foot. Unrealistic for an aging FBI profiler to chase anybody while the city cops stand around chewing gum. Well-done drama, but hardly believable.

  2. I was late reading this one because I was only reading the Harry Bosch books. When I found out that the characters would begin to interact, I went back and picked up this one and the Mickey Haller books. Love them all!

  3. This is one of my favorite Michael Connelly books (my favorite being THE POET). I read this years ago and enjoyed it. And yes, you're perfectly right, you just never know where a Connelly book is going to wind up. I never did watch the movie since they changed the bad guy and I believe, the ending. Or so I gathered.