Book review: The Drop by Michael Connelly

The Drop
Michael Connelly
Orion, 2011

What a treat it is when a new Michael Connelly book is published. The Drop is one of the Harry Bosch series. Bosch is a veteran cop in the LAPD, currently working in the Open-Unsolved crime unit (often called the “cold case” unit). Together with his partner the much younger David Chu, he is given cases to investigate when DNA or other forensic testing on samples from an old crime match up with entries in modern databases. One such case is given to Bosch and Chu at the start of The Drop. It’s a puzzling case because the blood found on the neck of a young woman’s body found 20 years ago, matches that of a sex offender who was only 8 years old at the time. Bosch and Chu are given the job of finding out whether there has been contamination during sample collection, or if not, what is going on.

Before they can start their investigation, Bosch is pulled off the case and put onto another one by none other than the chief of police himself, via Bosch’s old partner Kiz Rider, who now works as the chief’s aide. A man’s body has been found on the pavement outside a famous LA hotel. The corpse is that of George Irving, son of Bosch’s old enemy and almost-nemesis, Irvin Irving, who had to retire from the police force but is now a powerful councilman who controls police budgets. To say there is no love lost between the two men is an understatement, but Rider has told Irving Snr that Bosch is the most principled detective she knows, because for Bosch “everyone counts or nobody counts”. Hence, Bosch will find out whether Irving Jr committed suicide, as the investigating cops believe, or if there is another explanation for his death – the options seeming to be either an accidental fall over the balcony or murder.

Bosch would rather carry on his cold-case investigation as he has little time for high politics, yet has to comply with the order of the chief. He tries to carry out both investigations in parallel; one of the themes of the novel is the excessive resource and pressure to solve the current case, and the total lack of interest by the police authorities in the older case, that of an “unimportant” person. This theme deepens and darkens as more pages are turned.

As well as the two investigations, Bosch is in conflict with his partner Chu, who is immature and nervy. The two men fall out quite badly, not least because Bosch always keeps things to himself and has an autocratic style. In his personal life, Bosch is well-established in his life with Maddie, his 15-year-old daughter; their relationship is superficially laconic but close, as Maddie continues to be determined to be a cop like her father after she graduates from school. However, Bosch has to decide on whether or not to take “the drop” he has been offered, which is three more years in the force, after he is past official retirement age.

There are other themes and subplots to this novel which I won’t go into here. If you’ve read Connelly before, I would not want to provide too much of an account of the events in the book, which would only be likely to spoil your enjoyment. If you haven’t, I would not recommend starting with this book as there is quite a bit of assumed knowledge about the characters and past events. (Start with the first novel in the series, The Black Echo, and see if you aren’t hooked!).

Connelly always delivers for his legions of readers, though he has gone through a couple of slight dips earlier in the Bosch series. The Drop (which could refer either to Bosch’s final retirement date or to the fate of George Irving) is a gripping book in which one simply has to follow along behind Bosch’s driven, focused actions in order to find out how both investigations turn out. It is replete with the tough poetic turns of phrase that characterise Bosch and his self-appointed mission, to stand up for those who no longer have anyone to stand up for them. The last part of the book is a significant shift in tone from the rest – where in the hands of another author the reader (this one, anyway!) might have found it hard to continue, Connelly is almost too reticent about what he’s describing. Although I was grateful for this, the denouement of the cold-case investigation was less dramatic and slightly more flat than it could have been. The Irving case is more sharply drawn, and one can sense the author’s enjoyment of his political twists and turns towards its culmination. What’s next for Bosch? I’ll be eagerly awaiting his next appearance, as usual.

I purchased my copy of this book.

Other reviews of The Drop: Crime Time, The Mystery Site, PW (brief), Promoting Crime Fiction and Mean Streets.

The Drop at the author’s (very good) website, with excerpt, video, reviews, etc.

The Drop at Wikipedia, an entry with links to the other Bosch novels, Michael Connelly and related topics. The entry includes a list of the Bosch novels in reading order, plus the other books by Connelly.

8 thoughts on “Book review: The Drop by Michael Connelly

  1. I’ve never read any Michael Connelly but your review has persuaded me to give him a go. I think my local library has a good selection so I’ll hunt down ‘The Black Echo’

    • Oh do give him a try, Sarah, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It is such a marvellous series, & he’s always inventing ways to refresh it. A great author – a bestseller who does not sit on his laurels and churn them out to formula, but who always delivers something a bit different & thought-provoking for readers. Also these are real classic stories, rather than “over the top” in any way.

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  3. Maxine – An excellent, excellent review. You’ve whetted my already-considerable appetite for this one (waiting for my turn at the library…). Like you, I always look forward to a new Connelly, and this one seems that it’s more than worth the wait. I’m biased, I know, but I thought this one would be good even before I read the synopsis of it :-).

  4. This is good to read about. It’s always a pleasure, like getting home and putting on one’s comfortable clothes and sitting in the comfortable chair, to take out a Harry Bosch book.
    It’ll go on my TBR list and hopefully soon, when I need a weekend to kick back and relax, I’ll have this book handy.

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  7. Discovered Connelly in 2011 and am really enjoying reading them, wildly out of order of course. Just finished the Reversal and was gripped by the court room scenes.

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