26.2.12

Michael Connelly's The Closers


Michael Connelly tells the story of a Los Angeles Times editor who told him he couldn’t write; Connelly set out to prove him wrong and did so in no uncertain terms. In my post on Echo Park, I pointed out that his books have won virtually every major mystery novel award, have garnered more than 50 million dollars in sales, and have been translated into 35 languages. This L.A. Times journalist-turned-novelist is certainly in a class by himself.

Connelly has written mystery series featuring a variety of detectives (click here for the complete list), but the most popular is the Harry Bosch series. He writes hard-boiled mysteries (see my post on this genre) in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald.

The Closers begins with Harry Bosch returning to the LAPD after three years of retirement. He joins the open-unsolved unit with his former partner, Kiz Rider. Their mission is to solve a cold case from 20 years ago. Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Verloren was taken from her bedroom, carried up a hill, and shot to death. New DNA evidence provides fresh clues to this unsolved crime. It also leads to evidence of police corruption at the highest levels, a theme that recurs throughout the series. There is no neat or fairy-tale ending to this case.

When asked why he chose to call his detective “Hieronymus Bosch,” Connelly said,
I wanted all aspects of his character to be meaningful, if possible. This, of course, would include his name. I briefly studied the work of the real Hieronymus Bosch while in college. He was a 15th century painter who created richly detailed landscapes of debauchery and violence and human defilement. There is a ‘world gone mad’ feel to many of his works, including one called Hell — of which a print hangs on the wall over the computer where I write. I thought this would be the perfect name for my character because I saw the metaphoric possibilities of juxtaposing contemporary Los Angeles with some of the Bosch paintings.
Janet Maslin writes, “Like James Ellroy and John Fante, both of whose work is referred to here, Mr. Connelly continues to make his doomy, secretive Los Angeles a living, breathing character in his stories.” If the world of the novel is filled with violence and brutality, it is redeemed by some of the characters who refuse to beaten by it.

Harry Bosch is an inspirational character, one who finds meaning in his role as detective. “Bosch can’t bring back the victims,” Marilyn Stasio points out, “but in his new job he can honor his resolve ‘to carry on the mission’ and make good on his promise ‘always to speak for the dead.’”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Connelly observed that “the best books in this genre are the ones that have raised the book to a greater level. Yes, they’re puzzles and entertainment and whodunits, but it’s the writers who can use that as a lens to look at something else, to explore some kind of social or political angle, who are the ones I like the most.” The Closers is one such novel; the pointed social commentary adds depth and substance to the novel. Connelly the journalist is always behind Connelly the mystery writer.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly states that The Closers is one of the author’s finest works: “Connelly comes as close as anyone to being today’s Dostoyevsky of crime literature, and this is one of his finest works to date, a likely candidate not only for book award nominations but for major bestsellerdom.”

Connelly, Michael. The Closers. New York: Little, Brown, 2005.