Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Review: The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Stronger characters and a gripping plot
Cons: Definitely not a cozy; for audio version, the narration
The Bottom Line:
Bosch must face his past
With court case tied to new case
Third in series shines

Past is Prologue

When I listened to the first book in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, I was surprised at the major stories in his background that effected who he was.  It almost felt like jumping into the middle of a series even though I knew it wasn’t.  Now, with The Concrete Blonde, the third in the series, we get to revisit some of that history.

Four years ago, Harry Bosch shot a man in the line of duty.  The man was a suspected serial killer dubbed the Dollmaker, and, despite warnings to freeze, he was reaching for something under a pillow.  Now, the man’s widow is suing Bosch and the LAPD in his wrongful death.  The trial is getting publicity in the wake of the Rodney King trial and riots.

However, the LAPD has just been sent a note that appears to be from the Dollmaker.  It teases the location of another body, and Harry quickly recognizes all the signatures of the killer.  Did he shoot the wrong man?  Is this a copycat or a partner?  How will this affect the trial?

While this is only my third Harry Bosch book, I have already listened to all of Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller books.  Those are legal thrillers, and we spend as much time on the back and forth in the courtroom as anything else.  I bring that up here because we spend plenty of time in the courtroom as Harry up against a strong lawyer who wants to win money for her client.  Those scenes, as always, were fascinating to me, and it’s interesting to see this early look at author Michael Connelly doing it so well.

The other part of the book is police procedural, which is what you’d expect for a police detective.  During the evenings, Bosch is out working hard to figure out what is going on with this new body.  That part of the book was just as fascinating to me.  I thought I had the case wrapped up way before Bosch, but it turned out I was dead wrong on who the bad person was.  The climax was brilliant and left me cheering.

This is the first time I felt like we saw some real character growth from Bosch.  Because of his ongoing relationship with a woman he met in the last book, he’s actually coming out of his loner shell.  I appreciated that, and I look forward to seeing more growth in future books.  The rest of the cast was also strong.  We got to see different sides of some of the regulars, which I appreciated, and the new characters held their own with this impressive cast.

I do want to make one thing perfectly clear.  This is NOT remotely one of the cozies I normally read.  There is a lot of language (which I know is realistic but I still felt went a little overboard) and some violence.  The serial killer in question sexually abused the women before he killed them, so some of the detail they get into is quite uncomfortable.  Some of the victims are prostitutes, so we get a glimpse of what that does to the women.  While I do recommend the book, keep that in mind before you pick it up.

As mentioned before, I once again listened to the audio version of the book.  The narrator is Dick Hill, and I must say I liked the book despite his performance.  All three of the books I’ve listened to that he’s done he’s gone out of his way to be overdramatic, giving us the sighs and coughs that are included in the narration but are out of place in an audio book.  Then there are the ticks he gives a couple minor character’s speech for no reason I can find that makes it hard to listen to.  Finally, there is a note to Bosch that he reads in a way that made me scratch my head.  Fortunately, as the book went along, he toned his overdramatic narration down.  I’ve always said that a narrator can make or break a book, and, while his narration doesn’t prove that, it certainly shows how influential it can be.

With his third book, Michael Connelly is clearly finding what works best for him in his novels.  The Concrete Blonde is the best of the first three Bosch novels.  I can’t wait to see where the series goes next from this foundation.

If, like me, you are hooked on these books, you'll want to read the rest of the Harry Bosch mysteries in order.

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


  1. As I mentioned at Goodreads, I love this series. I am up to 2010 across all Connelly's series. I just checked the ratings I gave them and every single one is a five star with no exceptions. I'm pretty sure this is the only series I follow that has this distinction. Even the Preston/Child combo has let me down a number of times - but not Connelly! Dagny

    1. I haven't felt they were all 5 stars, but they are definitely great. He's a talented author for sure.

  2. P. S. You'll find out a lot more of Harry's backstory in The Last Coyote which is up next for you. It's actually the first book by Connelly that I read and the one that started me reading it. Pure luck too. I was camping and a guy a campsite or so over was also a reader. We swapped books that we'd finished and I was fortunate enough to get The Last Coyote.

    1. More backstory next book? Looking forward to it.

  3. I can't get the song, Joey by Concrete Blonde out of my head.... LOL
    As for the book itself, you say it has excessive language and violence, and frankly, that's exactly what I like. :-) I think I might have to find this series, but book 1.

    1. Sounds like it is right up your ally in that case.


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