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Onyx reviews: The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 9/24/2016

Harry Bosch's reputation with the LAPD took a hit after he successfully sued the department for forcing him into retirement. That doesn't mean he's no longer on the job, though. He's working as a private detective while simultaneously acting as an unpaid reserve officer with the San Fernando Police Department, which is suffering from recent budget cuts. This situation sometimes causes a conflict of interest, because Bosch is legally forbidden from using official police department resources to work on his private cases. That kind of regulation has never stopped Bosch before.

His current private case involves a wealthy industrialist, Whitney Vance, a Howard Hughes protégé whose businesses are worth billions. Now in his mid-eighties and in failing health, Vance is putting his affairs in order. When he was a young man, he got a girl pregnant, but he has no idea where that child may be, or if there are any surviving offspring. If there are, he wants to make sure they are included in his will, so he hires Bosch to track them down. It's a very cold case, since the pregnancy occurred some sixty years ago at a time when unwed mothers hid their conditions and gave away their out-of-wedlock children. 

Still, as anyone who does any genealogical work knows, there are records in the most unexpected places and people sometimes have long memories. Bosch quickly gets a strong and encouraging lead, even though some of the trails lead to literal dead ends. He is hampered by the fact that he has to maintain absolute confidentiality about the goal of his investigation. With so much money in play, and huge corporate interests involved, he could end up with a target on his back if people find out he's looking for heirs to the fortune. Even when his client stops returning his calls, Harry, who was well-paid up front, continues his search. The case has become intensely personal, because one of the offspring he tracks served in Vietnam at the same time as him. They were probably on the same boat at the same time for a short period.

In parallel, while digging through the open/unsolved cases at the tiny San Fernando headquarters, Bosch discovers a connection between a number of rapes in the area. He is able to prove that a single perpetrator is responsible for these attacks, which changes their approach to solving the crimes. As the case heats up, Bosch is caught between working on it and the Vance case. He has no fixed hours with San Fernando, but he feels obligated to follow up on new leads as they come in. When he abandons his SFPD colleagues to go to San Diego to interview people who might provide information about the Vance family tree, ignoring major developments in the serial rape case, he can't help but feel guilty when things go bad in his absence.

He's also being followed, probably by someone related to the Vance case, so he regularly needs to take measures to elude his surveillance, some of which is very high tech. Once things heat up with the quest for the heir, Bosch consults with his half-brother, the so-called Lincoln Lawyer.

Bosch falls very much into the lone wolf category of private detectives. He has no current love interests and the only person in his life of any importance is his daughter, who is now at university. Any time something bad happens at work, his thoughts go immediately to her. They have a decent relationship, although there's a growing distance caused by the fact that she's no longer at home. Bosch also has a long history of trouble with authority figures, and these cause conflicts in San Fernando. Not everyone on the job is happy he's there, even if he's working for free. 

Another solid entry in this long-running series, which is now being adapted to television on Amazon's streaming video service.

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