by Michael Connelly
This entire book was ruined for me by one small subplot, and I'm still fuming over it. In fact, other than the culmination of Irvin Irving's flanderisation to the Evil Schemer, I'm finding it hard to remember the plot in light of that subplot.
The subplot: one of the major suspects is a man who was"sacrificed to the mob" when he was thrown out of the LAPD for killing people with the choke hold. (That's right--the same type of chokehold that caused Eric Garner's death.) Here is Connelly's interpretation (spoken through Bosch's mouth to the token African-American woman, who agrees, and apparently taken as truth within the novel) of the whole civil rights angle:
The statistics [of choke hold deaths] matched up across racial and geographic lines. Sure, there were more choke hold deaths in the south end. Far more African Americans died than other races. But the ratios were even. There were far more incidents involving use of force in the south end. The more confrontations, scuffles, fights, resisting arrests you get, the more uses of the choke hold. The more you use the choke hold, the more deaths you will have. It was simple math. But nothing is simple when racial politics are involved.
What Connelly takes for granted there is that a disproportionate number of African Americans needed to be "subdued" in the first place. Yet by another interpretation, the very statistics that Connelly quotes are proof of endemic and institutionalized racism within the department. Consider this explanation: LAPD discriminates in their use of force against the African American community, which leads to a horrific increase in the number of deaths by police force. Shockingly, this might lead more people to resist arrest because they see what happens to the people who end up in LAPD hands. Those darned politically correct pedants; why do they assume this is related to race just because of the evidence?
But it doesn't stop there. According to Bosch:
The task force recommended that the bar hold be dropped from the use-of-force progression and it was. Funny thing is, the department told officers to rely more on their batons--in fact, you could be disciplined if you got out of a patrol car without carrying your baton in your hand or on your belt. Added to that, Tasers were coming into use just as the choke hold went out. And what did we get? Rodney King. A video that changed the world. A video of a guy being Tased and whaled on with batons when a proper choke hold would've put him to sleep."
This shows such a monumental degree of willful misunderstanding of the situation that I simply can't wrap my mind around it. Let's be realistic: Rodney King wasn't beaten to subdue him. He was already subdued; hell, he was on the ground. They were just beating him. Over and over and over.* I find it so disgustingly offensive that Connelly tries to turn this into an example of political correctness gone amok that I can't really be coherent about it.
So why is my rating even a 2.5? Well, I gritted my teeth and plowed through that section, and like everything else Connelly writes, the book was eminently readable. I like the way that Connelly is developing Maddie, Bosch's daughter, as a character. One of the most common tropes in Connelly's book pops up again here--twice--but the way it is dealt with is more interesting than most of the other books where it appears.
But even though I still find Connelly to be compulsively readable, this book left a bitter taste in my mouth.
*By the way, if you want to make up your own mind about the Rodney King beating, the video is on YouTube, although obviously be prepared for shocking and graphic violence. What Wikipedia describes as him "getting up" and "resisting" looks to me like trying to crawl away and block the repeated blows.