My choice for this week’s stop – the letter “B” – is Michael Connelly’s Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Bosch is one of the best known fictional detectives of the last two decades and it’s easy to see why he has gained such a following.
One of the real appeals of Harry Bosch is that he’s a normal, “regular” guy. He’s not a superhero, he’s not particularly wealthy or drop-dead gorgeous. He’s a person with whom we can identify in part because he is a normal person. For most of the series, Bosch is a cop with the L.A.P.D. So he solves cases by making sense of evidence, interviewing witnesses, suspects and informants and putting all of those clues together. In other words, he solves cases by simply doing his job well.
But Bosch’s appeal goes far beyond the fact that he’s a “regular guy.” Bosch works hard to solve every case, and gives each one everything he has. Here’s what Bosch has to say about his attitude towards his job in The Last Coyote:
“‘But in homicide there is one rule that I have when it comes to the cases I get.’ [Bosch]
‘What is that rule?’
‘Everybody counts or nobody counts.’
‘Just what I said. Everybody counts or nobody counts. That’s it. It means I bust my a** to make a case whether it’s a prostitute or the mayor’s wife. That’s my rule.’”
It is indeed and Bosch follows it.
That rule is in part the reason for which Bosch is no respecter of position, power or money. If he is on the case, he’s not afraid to go right to the top of the proverbial tree to solve a murder. For example, in Angels Flight, we learn that Michael Harris was convicted and imprisoned for the rape and murder of twelve-year-old Stacey Kincaid. When Harris claims that he was the victim of police brutality and that his confession was coerced, prominent attorney Howard Elias takes Harris’ case and prepares to go up against the L.A.P.D. in a trial. But then Elias is murdered. Bosch begins to investigate the murder and discovers that Harris may very well be innocent and that the evidence was (quite possibly deliberately) mishandled. In this novel, Bosch goes up against some very powerful forces both in the community and the L.A.P.D. That power and privilege doesn’t stop him though and in the end he discovers the truth about Elias’ death as well as that of Stacey Kincaid.
Angels Flight also highlights another of Bosch’s appealing traits. He is dogged. He simply does not give up. In this particular case he has to investigate some of his own, so to speak, and he’s in conflict with some of the top members of the L.A.P.D. But he doesn’t give up. The case is too important to him. We also see that doggedness in The Black Ice, in which he’s quite frankly told to leave alone the death of fellow cop Calexico “Cal” Moore. Moore’s death is put down to suicide, but Bosch doesn’t think that’s true. So despite what he’s told to do, he follows leads on that case – even to the point of traveling to Mexico – until he knows the truth. As it turns out, this wasn’t a suicide and Bosch finds some very ugly truths underneath the proverbial rocks he turns over.
Bosch also has a very interesting, if not particularly happy, backstory. Raised by his mother Marjorie Lowe, he’s been more or less on his own since she was murdered when he was eleven. In fact he returns to that very murder in The Last Coyote when he is sidelined from his regular cases. His mother’s murder was never solved, partly because no-one was particularly interested in the death of a prostitute. But Bosch picks up the case when he is put on indefinite leave after a violent fight with his supervisor. We learn in The Black Ice that Bosch’s father is prominent attorney J. Michael Haller, who defended Bosch’s mother in several cases related to her fight to keep custody of him. That’s how he learns that Haller is his father. He also learns that he has a half-brother and we see quite a lot of that half-brother Mickey Haller in several Connelly novels. In some, Haller takes the lead himself; in others he and Bosch work together.
In The Black Echo we learn that Bosch served in the military as a “tunnel rat” during the Vietnam War. His job was to find and destroy the Viet Cong’s network of underground bunkers. When the body of Billy Meadows, a fellow “tunnel rat,” is found in a drainpipe, the police want to put it down to a simple case of an overdose by a junkie. But Bosch suspects otherwise and in the end, he and his partner in this case Jerry Edgar are able to connect Meadows’ death to a major bank robbery. Bosch’s war service has affected him deeply and it’s referred to more than once in this series. But at the same time, it has not left him debilitated.
Bosch has a lot of good qualities, but he’s by no means perfect, and that’s appealing too. He’s passionate about his work, but has a lot of trouble in his personal life. More than once, his job or the complications from one of his cases have gotten in the way of a personal relationship. His great love seems to be former FBI agent Eleanor Wish, who comes in and out of the series. At one point, they marry, but their relationship ends in divorce. He and Wish have a teenage daughter Maddie who at first lives with her mother in Hong Kong, but who moves in with Bosch after the events of 9 Dragons. Bosch loves Maddie very much and does his best to be a good father. They have their moments but Maddie loves and respects her father too. And that’s the kind of thing that separates Harry Bosch from the all-too-common character of the cop with a broken marriage and a drinking problem who fights personal demons. Bosch has his share of personal problems. But he doesn’t let them overtake his life. He does his job well, he doesn’t give up on life and despite the ugliness he sees, he doesn’t fall apart.
If my demise was untimely and – er – not by accident, I would want Harry Bosch to investigate it. He would never give up and he would get to the truth no matter what. Little wonder so many people like this guy!