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City of Bones    by Michael Connelly order for
City of Bones
by Michael Connelly
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Michael Connelly continues to remind me of an author across the Atlantic, Ian Rankin. Despite very different settings and cultural contexts for their police procedurals, their two protagonists share many traits. Harry Bosch and John Rebus are both loners, more concerned with truth than politics, and often at odds with their superiors. There is no easy optimism in their cases and the authors share a streak of philosophy and dark poetry. Each hero is, as Harry is labelled this time, a 'knight in tarnished armor'.

In City of Bones, Harry is determined to solve a very cold case, involving the unearthed bones of a ten to thirteen year-old boy who was systematically abused throughout his short childhood. As Harry muses, 'Child cases haunted you ... Child cases left you knowing the world was full of lost light.' The story develops powerfully. As the case unfolds, the author contrasts an old love of Harry's, the coroner who sold out to the system, with an emerging romance. Harry falls for a mature rookie, with a penchant for risk taking and values similar to his own.

On the philosophical side, Connelly explores different reactions to evil acts and how they test faith. A medical examiner comments that 'maybe the boy was better off leaving this world'. Harry's partner Edgar, a father himself, expresses the common reaction that a human being could not have performed such acts and assigns responsibility to 'aliens, little green men from outer space'. But Harry himself knows that 'true evil could not be taken out of the world. At best he was wading into the dark waters of the abyss with two leaking buckets in his hands.'

There is some hope that Harry's personal situation will improve, but as a senior officer comments about Hieronymus Bosch, he is a 'shit magnet' and that unfortunately holds true. Bad things happen to Harry once again and his personal life deteriorates. While Harry solves the case, it does not provide the redemption that he's seeking and does bring back memories of his own childhood and reinforces a 'shroud of futility around him'. When Harry answers a question from the dead, he comes to a momentous decision, one that leaves the reader very curious about what's coming next in this compelling series.

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