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BOUND TO PLEASE / Detective goes to ‘dark side’ on mission to right a wrong

The Japan News

By Tom Baker / Japan News Staff WriterThe Crossing

By Michael Connelly

Grand Central, 388pp

Simon Christenson was beaten to death in September of 1899. When his body was found on the tracks of a railroad bridge, his killing became the first murder case ever investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Los Angeles has been the scene of many murders since then, including real-life tragedies like Christenson’s death and the fictitious mysteries depicted in countless novels and Hollywood films. Michael Connelly, a Los Angeles Times reporter turned novelist, is an expert on both kinds of crime. 

On the first page of “The Crossing,” the latest of Connelly’s many excellent crime novels, two present-day LAPD detectives are following a motorcycle down Ventura Boulevard in an unmarked car. On the second page — well, that would already be a spoiler. But when the surprises start happening that early, you know you’re in for a good ride.

The action then shifts to a courtroom, where a hearing is under way on a seemingly unrelated case. Defense attorney Mickey Haller (a character played by Matthew McConaughey in the movie version of an earlier Connelly novel, “The Lincoln Lawyer”) has an LAPD officer named Sanchez on the witness stand. Recently retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, this book’s main character, is watching from the spectator area.

“Bosch noticed that [Sanchez] had three hash marks on his sleeve, one for every five years with the department. Fifteen years was a lot of experience and that told Bosch that Sanchez would be very wary of Haller as well as skilled at giving answers more helpful to the prosecution than the defense.”

This paragraph is vintage Connelly. From it, you learn what the stripes on an LAPD uniform mean — which is a fun fact — but the author does not include this detail just to show off his technical knowledge. He uses it to show what kind of observer Bosch is, and what kind of lawyer Haller will have to be.

In “The Crossing,” Haller is defending a man he believes was framed for murder, and he asks Bosch to help him find the real killer.

The title has two meanings. One is the idea that a murderer and a victim must have “crossed paths” before the crime occurred. Discovering where and how that happened, Bosch believes, is a key to solving the mystery. The other meaning is that Bosch has “crossed to the dark side” by working for a defense attorney who is trying to undo a case put together by the detective’s former law enforcement brethren. Though he wants to see justice done, this crossing causes him a certain degree of anguish.

It’s not spoiling anything to say that Bosch will eventually crack the case, although there is plenty of terrific suspense along the way. 

But real life is more prone to loose ends. This book’s dedication page reads, “In memory of Simon Christenson.” More than a century later, that case remains unsolved.

Where to read

Any restaurant that serves good cheap food. In Los Angeles, that would be Chinese Friends, where Bosch often reads case files over lunch.

Maruzen price: ¥2,560 plus tax (as of Feb. 3, 2016)

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