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two kinds of truth

24 july 2020

As Two Kinds of Truth opens, Harry Bosch is in a jail cell. I was momentarily worried. It had been a while since I'd read a Harry Bosch novel, and I may have missed a few in the series, and I thought, Harry's really gotten himself in trouble now.

Of course come to find that the cell, up in San Fernando, California, is just a temporary office. Harry, who had not left the LAPD on the best of terms, immediately caught onto the force in the little Valley city as a volunteer closer of cold cases. He appears to have closed three of these – I wonder how many cold cases non-fictional detectives clear single-handedly in their entire lives – and is fixing to close another when two things happen: a fresh double murder in San Fernando pharmacy that Harry must mentor the city's detectives through, and a very deeply-buried case from Harry's own past that threatens, maybe, to put him into one of those cells that he started the novel from.

A murderer named Preston Borders is haranguing the State to let him out. I wondered briefly if I were supposed to remember Borders from a previous Michael Connelly novel. It seems not. Series detective heroes' careers not only extend indefinitely into the future, but they expand, accordion-like, into the past. There's always some big case that the author neglected to write a novel about back in the day, that now threatens to tear our hero apart as it re-emerges into the light.

Now, Borders is obviously guilty and Harry's obviously being set up: we take that for granted. But new DNA evidence, Borders' lawyer claims, exonerates him; a drop of another man's semen was on the victim's clothes. I wondered how many Death Row inmates in the U.S. get freed because a drop of someone else's DNA shows up on some evidence, many years after their conviction. Turns out this happens sometimes, though usually by identifying an obviously plausible alternative suspect as the likelier culprit. (And usually it is more than a drop and not on clothes. In Two Kinds of Truth, the DNA on the victim's clothes is linked to a random murderer, never associated with the case before, who also happens to be conveniently dead.

This plot point is so fishy that even Connelly can't quite bring it off convincingly. There was other evidence against Borders – he had jewelry of the victim's hidden in his apartment – and the convicted man's story is now that Bosch planted that evidence. Before you know it Harry is in the grips of a frighteningly intricate trap. But you also know that he and his "Lincoln Lawyer" brother Mickey Haller are going to turn that trap inside out and catch the conspirators.

All the while, Harry is also tracking down the drug dealers who killed two pharmacists in the Valley, and a federal agent gets the bright idea of sending Harry undercover to pose as a "pill shill," a phony Medicare recipient who can get prescriptions written and filled so that his employers can rake off the drugs for huge profits. There's a lot of hokey action-movie stuff involving tossing people out of planes and what-not, and I will not spoil the book by revealing whether Harry gets his men.

Connelly, Michael. Two Kinds of Truth. New York: Little, Brown [Hachette], 2017.