“He knew 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 moulded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.”
Regular readers of Connelly’s work will need no telling that for Harry Bosch, there is only one kind of truth. And it’s not the “truth” of politicians and bent lawyers. Bosch’s other principle is that “everybody counts or nobody counts”.
And so, in this, the 20th Harry Bosch novel, we find Bosch working cold cases out of an old prison cell for the San Fernando police department. Cold cases are the ones that have remained unsolved despite a period of investigation and that are then put aside without being entirely closed.
This means that for their victims there is no justice. It is entirely in Bosch’s character that he would seek to remedy this.
Strands Of A Web Of Deceit
When Two Kinds Of Truth opens, he is investigating the strange case of Esme Tavares, who simply disappeared one day, leaving behind her baby asleep in its cot. Nothing has been seen or heard of her since and the supposition is that she was murdered.
It is a case that niggles away at Bosch, but he is soon to have more pressing problems when one of his ex-partners arrives with two other officials. Bosch is under investigation after a claim that he planted evidence in the case of Preston Borders, a man found guilty, on Bosch’s evidence, of murder and who has been on death row for almost 30 years.
Suddenly, a case he thought solved and cold is open and hot. Convinced there is a scam in play, and utterly convinced that Borders is guilty, Bosch has nine days in which to work out how to refute the claim that new DNA evidence proves the murder was committed by another killer, now dead. Fail, and Borders will be released.
This is when Bosch calls on his half-brother, Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, to help.
The Plot Thickens
This, you would think, would be ample plot to keep any crime writer happy. But Connelly is not just any crime writer. So enter strand three, the double murder of a father and son in a downtown pharmacy. CCTV footage makes clear that the shooting is not a robbery but a very professional hit.
As the murders take place on his San Fernando patch, Bosch is called in to aid the investigation although he refuses to lead with the court inquiry hanging over him. It rapidly becomes clear that the pharmacists were a reluctant part of a pill shill operation.
Fake patients, often addicts themselves, are given prescriptions for high value street drugs by bent doctors which they then present to pharmacies to fulfil. The pills are then sold by the organisers at their high street value.
It’s a corrupt, hugely profitable operation that sits at the top of an epidemic of addiction to oxycodone and similar opioids.
“Fifty thousand dead and counting since all this started. Almost as many as we lost in the Vietnam War. That is sadly quantifiable, but the money, forget it, it’s off the charts. So many people are making money off this crisis – it’s the growth industry of this country.”
In an attempt to reach the brains behind this sordid operation, Bosch goes undercover. There, he discovers a world every bit as unpleasant and insidious as he anticipates. And there I will stop for fear of spoilers. My recommendation would be that you read this book.
It All Comes Together
It takes a novelist of Connelly’s stature and skills to hold together a plotline as potentially messy as this. And if I have any hesitation about Two Kinds Of Truth it is that the Esme Tavares strand gets pushed aside fairly early on and makes a somewhat perfunctory reappearance at the end.
This, however, is carping. Bosch’s bid to establish his honesty and credibility in the Borders case and his undercover operation make for gripping, intelligent and occasionally informative reading. Connelly is consistently brilliant in leading you step by credible step through an investigation and that process is unfaltering here.
Another pleasure is the relationship between Bosch and the more flamboyant Mickey Haller. Bosch needs Haller to represent him in court but whereas Bosch is a straight-down-the-line operative, Haller is more tricksy. It makes for some interesting clashes of opinion and viewpoint. Perhaps, after all, there are more than two kinds of truth!
It will be evident that I thoroughly enjoyed this latest offering from Connelly. I can think of very few other writers who deliver so consistently, book after book. His pacing and plotting are second to none and his own roots in Los Angeles crime (he was originally a crime reporter for The Los Angeles Times) lend unmistakable authenticity to his work.
Two Kinds Of Truth is in my opinion as good as anything he has written and a very fine achievement indeed.
Two Kinds Of Truth
Author: Michael Connelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, noir crime fiction