The Wrong Side of Goodbye is Michael Connelly’s twenty-first Harry Bosch book. I’ve never before read a mystery series for this long. Years ago I was into the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton, but I think I stopped somewhere around the sixteenth book or so, because things just got too repetitive. I used to read Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury series but decided to quit, coincidentally, after the 16th, mostly for the same reason (boredom) but also because that one involved investigating a snuff film with kids (NOPE NOPE NOPE!) I’m still digging Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series, of which I’m on the fifteenth book. But let’s face it, it’s Ruth freaking Rendell, the queen of smart psychological mysteries, and she’s a goddess in my book, so I think I’m safe there. (Sadly, she passed away in 2015; I wrote a tribute to her here.) The thing about series is, at some point they have to end, right? I’m definitely hanging in with Detective Harry Bosch until the end, whenever that may be – and based on how much I enjoyed this one, I hope that’s not any time soon!
If you’ve never read a Bosch book before, let me get you up to speed. They’re set in L.A. (with a few detours here and there to Vegas, Florida, and even once to China.) Harry’s real name is Hieronymous (yes, like the 15th century painter!) His mom died when he was young, and he was put into foster care. He’s a Vietnam vet, and flashbacks play a role in many of the novels. He’s horrible at relationships, and as of this last book, he hasn’t found his one true love. (I admit, the relationship plot lines are my least favorite and most cringe-worthy elements of the books.) But he does have a daughter, and he manages to forge a pretty good relationship with her. And his relationship with a half-brother, who he doesn’t discover until many books in, is really compelling (no spoilers!)
What I like about Harry is that he’s the guy fighting the system, fighting corrupt cops and politicians alike, always fighting for justice and the underdog. He’s smart but he’s not perfect – he sometimes misses things and makes mistakes, and he’s got a bit of a hot temper. He usually reads people well and is a good study of character. I like how he will often think that something about a case is bothering him but he can’t quite make the connections, so he’ll let it sit and percolate, go about his business, and all of a sudden BAM! He’s cracked the case and it’s a mad race to see if he can save the next victim or catch the bad guy after all. Connelly’s plots are page-turners, but it’s really Bosch himself that keeps me coming back.
This one was a bit different because there were two cases being worked simultaneously. Harry’s part-time now at the small San Fernando Police Department, since he’s no longer with the LAPD. He’s also a private investigator on the side. He’s working a serial rapist case for the department while also trying to find a potential heir to an ailing millionaire’s fortune. He gets so caught up in one case that he makes some crucial missteps in the other, possibly endangering someone he is close to. It was a typically fast-paced Connelly thriller; I raced through it in two days, even willingly staying up way past my bedtime to finish it.
If you’re thinking about trying one of these books, I’ll tell you that the first three were solid three-star books for me. It wasn’t until the fourth book (The Last Coyote) that I knew that I was invested in the series for a while. Harry is a capable, complicated, tough, caring, haunted man, and he made me want to keep coming back. Mysteries make great, entertaining palate-cleansers in between heavier literary fare, so if you’re game, I say give Michael Connelly a try!