A text on the cover of my copy called Michael Connelly, ‘America’s greatest living crime writer’. I think it might be more appropriate to call him the greatest living mystery writer. Because it seems to me that while he does write about crime – and being a former police reporter, his books are packed with impressive technical detail – you don’t come away with much understanding of the criminals. There’s nothing along the lines – and I’m just putting down the first name that comes to mind – of a Ruth Rendell. Reading her novels, you understand why the characters committed the crime they committed. She offers insight.
Michael Connelly doesn’t do insight. He writes fascinating puzzles. The pleasure in a Harry Bosch story lies in seeing him start from a blank page and, step by step, building up a complete picture of what happened. Much the same goes for the Lincoln Lawyer stories, although there the fun is witnessing Mickey Haller’s legal maneuverings and his attention to the details of the evidence. But when you reach the end of either a Bosch or Haller story, you don’t really understand people any better. What you’ve really had is a great time watching a mystery being unravelled.