By Lee Lipps

“The old lady had changed her mind about dying but by then it was too late.”

This wonderfully cynical, inferential opening sentence begins Michael Connelly’s City of Bones, his best to date in a series of Connelly novels. In this literary police procedural, Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch catches a New Year’s Day call out that leads him into a dreaded “cold case” murder investigation. It is a child’s homicide that occurred approximately twenty years ago. However, it is a murder he vows to solve when the investigation opens wide the world of child abuse, peer rivalry and pressure, and strikes mnemonic chords in Harry’s own childhood.

Along the way, Bosch encounters severe chain of command Brass displeasure. Anytime an officer receives a “forthwith” s/he knows they are in deep, uh, trouble. As usual, Bosch encounters office jealousy, betrayal and tragedy. What sets this novel apart from Connelly’s others, great as they all are, are maturity and authenticity of detail and characterization. In City of Bones all of Connelly’s characters, even the minor ones like Dr. Guyot, have unprecedented depth.

The investigation reveals the victim is a kid by the name of Arthur Delacroix that nobody even reported as missing. This case is unlike any other that Harry Bosch has investigated. In the context of Connelly’s highly decorated career of police procedural tales, the stories surrounding the ten-year-old boy’s death paint a painful portrait. Julia Brasher, a rookie cop, picks up a few clues on the case and Bosch is immediately enamored of her intelligence, her “on-the-edge” spirit, and he can’t resist her sexually charged flirtation. He pursues a dance of love with this fiery woman but there are things he doesn’t know and couldn’t possibly understand about her quest to be a great cop.

Further, the reader is treated to a delightful array of cogent, concise, educative detail about forensic archaeology (the genesis of the novel’s title), forensic anthropology, and the foster child care system as well as police resource allocation and deployment priorities. Only a Chief of Police or other high command brass would fail to learn from these passages. Connelly’s voice and detail are so nakedly authentic that he’s managed to truly capture and portray the disdain the police have for the print corps of which Connelly was once a part.

It’s as if Harry and his author have come full circle with this case. Saturated with tragic irony, yes, this is Michael Connelly’s best novel.