The Books of Bosch

A look at Michael Connelly’s Two Kinds of Truth

The Books of Bosch

“There were two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and molded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.”

– Hieronymus Bosch

Michael Connelly fans know that this quoted truth defines the work of Harry Bosch, the dark hero of 20 Connelly novels. “He…considered himself to be like that man at the counter in Hopper’s Nighthawks.”

Along with his companion series involving Bosch’s half-brother (“his brutha from another mutha”), trial lawyer Micky Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer), Connelly’s books have sold 60 million copies, and “Bosch” is now in its third season on television.

All brand books include weaker and stronger selections. Two Kinds of Truth is one of Connelly’s best. As his stories all do, Two Kinds of Truth includes separate but interwoven stories, a cold case, an old case, and an undercover drama. They bring in key characters from prior books and historic references to other cases and characters in Bosch’s history, particularly his deceased mother, whose life taught Bosch fundamental lessons about cruelty and human weakness.

(That perspective propels one of the episodes in this book. “He was being noble. And there isn’t a lot of that out in the world anymore.”)

Two Kinds of Truth also describes the awful epidemic of oxycodone and the schemes criminals have devised to exploit addicts. Bosch goes underground for DEA in this case, prompted by a murder in a pharmacy that stirred his moral drive.

Connelly’s description of how criminals manipulate this modern social disaster is frightening. Almost as many addicts are dead from this scourge as soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. “That is quantifiable,” he writes, “but the money, forget it. It’s off the charts…it’s the growth industry of this country.”

Connelly writes about police work — the politics, administrative drudgery, and invaluable effort of trying to protect the social contract — better than anyone else. And he is good at contriving criminal trial strategies, too. His books, this one for sure, contain compelling insights into police work:

  • “A homicide case always moved slowly from the center out.”
  • Criminals often communicate to police at a crime scene. “They had to get close to the investigation to learn what was going on, while hiding in plain sight also brought them psychological fulfillment.” They would learn more from the police than they would from him.
  • “The scariest client is the innocent man. Because there is so much at stake.”
  • DEA agents can be paranoid and isolated because their undercover work unfairly creates a stigma that their criminal quarry rubs off on them.
  • “When you went undercover, you moved from the safe confines of justice done and entered the world of the depraved.”

For Bosch, throughout his deprived early life and long career as a detective, “true justice was the brass ring just out of reach.” To him, "the reality of the world was dark and horrifying." Then, someone would cross his path and tap into a need he had to meet.

Bosch knows "that the need for redemption comes in all kinds of ways at all kinds of times." Connelly captures that dilemma in his books, and the result is entertainment about serious subjects — a remarkable literary achievement.

Ronald Goldfarb is an attorney, author, and literary agent. His column, CapitaLetters, appears regularly in the Independent.

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