Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 2017)
Being a book reviewer has its pitfalls, the biggest of which is the “the false start.” This is when I get half way through a book and realize that I will have nothing concrete to say to my readers about it, and finishing the book would be a waste of my time. Since Beth's Books will be celebrating its third anniversary in January, that means I will have read and reviewed over 150 books since 2014, which is why I have little tolerance for “false starts.”
Before I started reading Two Kinds of Truth, the 20th installment of the fabulous Harry Bosch series, I had had three “false starts” in a row which is disastrous for a book reviewer on a weekly schedule. Then I picked up the new Bosch and the relief that I felt from cracking open page one was enormous. I was home. Bosch, the irascible, irreverent, retired LA police detective is back, with a cast of beloved characters like Harry's bright daughter, Maddie, who is now a college coed, J.Edgar, Harry's former partner from the LA police force, and Mickey Haller, Harry's half-brother, otherwise known as the “Lincoln lawyer.”
Connelly's prose is like silk. It's so smooth and simple to read, but the plot hooks and lifts the reader up and down, like riding the waves of the ocean. And, even after twenty books in the series, this Bosch is as fresh and fascinating as The Black Echo was 25 years ago when Connelly first created Bosch.
Theme plays a prevalent part in Two Kinds of Truth, and it's an important current that ties together the various parts of the novel. Family ties, particularly those between mother/daughter, father/daughter, father/ son, brother/brother, sister/sister play heavily into the cases that Harry is working in this story. The theme of family bonds is important in Two Kinds of Truth in terms of understanding how Harry Bosch views and attacks the world in which he lives.
As the novel opens Bosch is working as a volunteer detective clearing cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department. When the proprietor of a local pharmacy and his son are found murdered, Bosch gets deeply involved in the investigation, which leads him into places darker than he has ever been. In order to flush out the killers and help law enforcement close down a massive drug trade, Bosch agrees to go undercover, something that he has never done before. Connelly does a masterful job in describing the workings of the multi-billion dollar drug trade that the U.S. government is currently focusing on shutting down. We read so much in the news about the war on opiates, but in this novel Connelly paints the images of what that war is truly about and why it may never be possible to win.
Bosch goes into the belly of the beast to flush out the drug kingpin, and the episodes that he experiences provide a visceral punch to the gut for the reader. Connelly skillfully uses sensory details to put the reader into the torment of those who have become slaves in the drug trade, controlled largely by bad guys from outside the United States.
But in the aftermath of the double murder at La Farmacia Familia, Bosch has a chilling revelation that is the reason why Connelly will probably write another twenty Bosch books. “Bosch knew that people like Novaschenko and the men between him and Sluchek would never pay for their crimes here, and that their operation, though down now, would rise again in another spot, with other sixes stepping up and showing their leadership skills,” Connelly writes. (p.329) As fast as law enforcement puts down one drug lord, another pops up to take his place. There will be work for Harry to do for a long time to come.
The second plot line has to do with an old case that Harry had worked thirty years before. An inmate on Death Row, Preston Borders, has pointed his cold finger at Bosch, claiming that the venerated detective had planted evidence in Border's apartment that had ultimately sealed the prosecution's case. Borders had been convicted of murdering a young woman and now, through a petition to the Conviction Integrity Unit by Border's lawyers, a spot of blood on the victim's pajamas that had been overlooked before, is tested and tracked to be the blood of another known serial killer, Lucas John Olmer.
As Bosch is agonizing over the assault on his integrity by Border's lawyers, he comes to this realization, “What Kenedy, Soto, and Tapscott could not know was what Bosch knew in the deepest, darkest part of his heart. That he had not planted evidence against Borders. That he had never planted evidence against any suspect or adversary in his life. And this knowledge gave Bosch an affirming jolt of adrenaline and purpose. He knew there were two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one's life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and molded too serve whatever purpose was at hand.” (p. 128)
But for Harry, knowing that you are innocent and proving it are two different animals!
There is one extra treat included at the end of Two Kinds of Truth, an essay entitled “The Running Man,” in which Connelly tells the story of how he became enamored with true crime. When he was a teenager, Connelly witnessed a suspicious man running down the street at midnight, when Connelly was homeward bound after a night washing dishes in restaurant. Captured by the man's observed actions, the gutsy teen followed the man to a local biker bar and watched him disappear into the dive. Connelly's imagination and social conscience were incited by this beautifully told vignette, and it lets Connelly's fans into the creative places in the writer's mind. Read the bonus!
A Bosch book is gritty and gutsy. It is hardcore detective fiction at its best, and Two Kinds of Truth is a gem. By the way, please keep this little secret. I am now going to put the dust jacket back on my copy and wrap it up for my husband for Christmas. He, too, is a huge Harry fan, who will be thrilled to get this novel to enjoy. You might want to pick up a copy for someone you love too. But before you give it, read it for yourself!