Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch, Michael Connelly’s highly observant detective, as we last saw in 2016’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye, isn’t exactly taking to retirement. Whatever relationship he once had with former employer, the LAPD, has soured beyond repair, and he now spends his days volunteering to help crack cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department. Two Kinds of Truth is the 22nd Bosch novel, and leverages that to its advantage. After nearly 40 years on the beat, Bosch has learned there are two kinds of truth in the world. One is the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission. The other is the “malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and molded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.”
As you might expect from a Bosch novel – and its unsubtle name – Connelly balances two competing cases for our attention. The first involves Preston Borders, a nasty piece of work Bosch helped put away 30 years ago for the violent rape and murder of Danielle Skyler, and possibly two other women. Borders received the death penalty, but endless delays meant he was still breathing. However, thanks to recently discovered DNA evidence – and advances in testing unavailable during the original trial – Borders will likely walk out of Death Row a free man.
Not helping is the questionable loyalty of Lucia Soto, Bosch’s ex-partner, who’s helping the Conviction Integrity Unit investigate Borders’ claims. On the surface, it seems like a slam-dunk case of wrongful conviction, and not just because of the fresh DNA evidence. Things look grimmer still as Borders alleges Bosch planted the primary evidence that helped convict him – the victim’s sea-horse pendant found in Borders’ apartment. These accusations open Bosch – and his unimpeachable reputation – to undue scrutiny and even personal liability for his role in Borders’ false imprisonment, a payout that could be worth millions.
The second case returns Bosch to a short-staffed San Fernando unit as he’s recruited to help investigate the double-murder of father and son pharmacy clerks in a heavily latino community. The gruesome crime shows every sign of being drug related – only the drug of choice were pain pills, and lots of them. The opioid crisis has hit the area hard as evidenced by the growing number of pill-mills, a network of doctors, pushers, and patients preying on the disadvantaged and strung-out Medicare recipients desperate enough to do just about anything to score their next hit. The La Farmacia Familia killings point to a sophisticated Russian-Armenian syndicate, and who better to help bust them up than a 65-year old volunteer ex-detective?
While this may sound ridiculous, it’s Connelly’s attention to detail and nuanced language that makes Two Kinds of Truth compulsively readable, and he doesn’t disappoint. Longtime Bosch fans may be disappointed to hear there’s not much in the way of scenic expository about LA this go-around – few in the business do it better than Connelly – as the focus is squarely kept on the two cases that may finally bring the grizzled detective down for good.
Poignant reminders of the character’s history are scattered throughout, and his final act of kindness is sure to gut-punch anyone who’s ever dealt with the pain of addiction. Connelly keeps things in the family as Bosch’s half-brother Mickey Haller, i.e. The Lincoln Lawyer, gets perhaps his meatiest role yet in a mainline Bosch novel, practically stealing the show (and certainly does in the courtroom finale). As we haven’t seen the attorney of ‘questionable’ tactics anchor his own book for nearly a half-decade now, it’s refreshing to see Connelly charitably spread the wealth and poke fun at his creation’s similarities to the “Texas-bred Matthew McConaughey” who played him in the 2011 film.
There are lingering questions that even Connelly’s tidy wrap ups can’t evade forever, however. Without spoiling the game, let’s just say a certain scenario may leave you asking yourselves: why on earth would the DEA choose the a sexagenarian Bosch, one of LA’s most famous detectives – one facing a potential media-blitz with the Borders case – to go deep undercover to infiltrate a dangerous drug ring? As much fun as this can be, it does stretch the limits of credibility to the breaking point.
The only other questions remaining are those I’m sure all fans expect: when will Connelly finally make the crossover between his famous detective and his likely successor, the impressive and much younger Renée Ballard, introduced just this summer in The Late Show? More critically, when will Bosch earn his well-deserved final assignment, leaving the game to a new generation of crime-solvers. Mickey Haller offers a fun diversion from the norm, but those fans expecting hard-boiled detective work want more than just another legal thriller – they’ve got John Grisham for those. More than ever, Two Kinds of Truth points to what can only be the inevitable end-game for a character well past his prime, both physically and culturally, and there’s simply no getting around that simple truth.