How do you find someone who might not exist? That’s the task set before cop-turned-private-detective Harry Bosch by a dying billionaire businessman in The Wrong Side of Goodbye (2016). Whitney Vance has been haunted his whole life by the Mexican girl whom he got pregnant as a teenager, only to have his father send her away. All these decades later, Vance wants Harry to find the woman if he can, and especially the child (and heir) she may have borne him.
Other people in Vance’s life would prefer that not to happen, since as things stand all those lovely billions of dollars will go to them if no heir is found. That leads to some menacing action as Vance’s associates try to find out what Harry knows and stop him from revealing all and eliminating their financial windfall.
That would seem to be enough to be going on with, but Harry is simultaneously working pro bono for the San Fernando Police Department to solve their coldest cases, including a particularly grim serial rapist. There’s nothing wrong with the plotting of this secondary case, but it feels like it’s only there to facilitate Harry’s continued access to police resources (which is, of course, against those pesky rules that Harry never follows if he doesn’t feel like it). Real-life events over the past year or so have altered my attitude toward rule-breaking cops. As much as I’ve always enjoyed Harry as a character, it didn’t feel good this time around to be rooting for someone whose personal motto seems to be “The end always justifies the means.”
Connelly excels at detailing the sometimes-plodding work that is necessary to solve criminal cases, and I’m a total nerd for that kind of logistical stuff. It was also nice to read a mystery where technology or science doesn’t swoop in to save the day. After 19 books in this series, I’m impressed with Connelly’s ability to keep coming up with clever and intricate plot lines. It’s a minor pity that his writing has never risen above the somewhat plodding prose of a newspaper police beat reporter (which I believe he used to be many years ago). I’m by no means ready to throw in the towel on this series, however, even though it’s not one I’m likely to binge-read. Spacing them out is the best approach, at least for me.