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Onyx reviews: A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly

While several suspense writers have been temporarily retiring their series characters to work on standalone novels, Michael Connelly does something different in A Darkness More than Night. He brings together two characters from previous novels, Terry McCaleb, a former FBI profiler retired after having a heart transplant, and Harry Bosch, Connelly's star LAPD detective.

Local sheriff's detective, Jaye Winston, recruits McCaleb in an unofficial capacity to help investigate the murder of Edward Gunn, himself a suspect in the murder of a prostitute. Gunn's execution has the hallmarks of a serial murder: ritualistic, body trussed, religious symbols decorating the scene. McCaleb reluctantly agrees to review the file. He now runs a low-profile fishing charter business from his remote Catalina Island home, where he lives with his highly protective wife and young daughter. As soon as he reads the file, he's hooked on the case.

McCaleb identifies symbols at the murder scene inspired by the work of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, famous for his bizarre triptychs portraying humanity suffering eternal torment for their earthly sins. It doesn't take McCaleb long to discover that Harry Bosch's first name is really Hieronymus.

Bosch was known to have had several run-ins with Gunn. The murder scene indicates to McCaleb that someone sees himself as the instrument of divine retribution. The deeper McCaleb investigates, the more things point to Bosch as the prime suspect—the detective had been unable to link Gunn to the murder and McCaleb wonders if the killing was Bosch's way of settling the score.

Bosch is currently the key witness at the high-profile trial of movie director David Storey, charged with the murder of a young actress. After a run of bad luck in prominent cases, the D.A. is desperate to nail Storey. The prosecutor's evidence is primarily circumstantial, and the case rests on Bosch, who is under intense pressure to deliver while his testimony is being broadcast live on television, with rooms full of journalists scrutinizing the trial.

McCaleb has worked with Bosch in the past. He respects the detective, but knows enough about Bosch's personality to not automatically rule him out. Connelly fans will know that Bosch is a loner, moody, temperamental and dark.

When he presents his preliminary conclusions to Winston, the FBI takes over the investigation and McCaleb is forced out. Word of Bosch's possible involvement threatens to leak. If it comes out during the trial, the D.A.'s case against Storey will collapse.

Bosch gets wind of the investigation and enlists McCaleb to help get to the bottom of Gunn's murder. The clock is ticking against them—the defense will likely soon recall Bosch to the witness stand.

Readers of previous Connelly novels will recognize passing references to events and characters from earlier books, but Connelly generally brings readers up to speed in case they are unfamiliar with these events.

The main characters are strong enough to carry the story, which stretches believability at times. The parallel plots intertwine nicely, with point-of-view switches between Bosch and McCaleb, the latter investigating in spite of strenuous complaints from his wife. He consumes copious amounts of drugs to ward off rejection of his transplanted organ.

Connelly borrows the title from Raymond Chandler, who wrote, "The streets were dark with something more than night." The success or failure of this book lies in his ability to convince readers—especially those who have read previous books—that Bosch could have murdered Gunn. This is difficult, but other mystery writers, including Agatha Christie have laid the groundwork, as has Connelly, by creating a character in Bosch who walks a narrow line of control.

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