From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 12 Jul 2004

I bought Connelly's CITY OF BONES last weekend. I was planning on reading it during a vacation at the end of July, but after reading a few pages I couldn't stop and finished it this weekend. I had read everything by him up through VOID MOON but hadn't read anything by him in the last couple years. After a lot of duds logged in the last couple months, CITY OF BONES was a breath of fresh air.

The story revolves around a murder investigation concerning the bones of a child found in a shallow 20-year-old grave. I've heard it said before that a setting powerfully invoked can have a presence as strong as a character, and Los Angeles and the surrounding area is well done in CITY OF BONES, but it is the mood itself that comes through strongest, a small island of hope and humanity isolated in a sea of melancholy. The bones are found in an isolated section of the city in the foothills. A gridwork is set up for the surrounding area to coordinate a search for more bones. The gridwork, similar to a city map of perpendicular streets, is poetically referred to as a city of bones. Great imagery for a gloomy mood. An examination of the bones reveals the child was most likely subjected to continuous brutal beatings. The mood turns darker. Some of the forensic work on the bones is conducted by archeological experts at the La Brea tar pit museum. In addition to information about Bosch's murder victim, the archeologist tells Bosch that in 1914 the tar pits yielded up the 9000 year old skeleton of a woman with her head bashed in, most likely a murder victim. The specter of a 9000 year old murder in LA haunts Bosch. Superb. It just don't get no better.

Was it you, John, who recently noted the connection between Connelly and Chandler? I saw many parallel themes. Although Bosch has a partner, he is still a loner like Marlowe. Baiting the police, swimming against a tide of corruption opposed to an honest investigation, failing any lasting relationship with a woman, an obsession with revealing the truth, and a brooding attitude bordering on bathos are all shared between Marlowe and Bosch. The satisfaction of being a do-gooder is juxtaposed against the terrible burden of shattered dreams and detritus that are revealed in the process. CITY OF BONES also trotted out the standard Chandler theme that fame and fortune have somehow been sacrificed for noble causes.

A great book. If I had any complaint at all, it would be that perhaps Connelly made the themes a bit too overt. Bosch's girlfriend openly jokes about Bosch being the stereotype lone tough detective, dedicated to the job above everything else, going so far as to call him her knight in tarnished armor. Redemption is discussed as his driving motivation. I'm not really certain why I should have a problem with the book openly acknowledging the standard trappings of the genre, and it wasn't a big issue. Perhaps I associate subtlety with grace and thought that Connelly's treatment was a shade too blatant.

One of the things I haven't mentioned is the significant ways that Connelly differs from Chandler, but I done wore out my lunch break.


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