This post goes out to my buddy Colin, who called me out suggested I write about books, since this is, y’know, supposed to be a book blog and all. A while back when he was looking for something to read, I suggested he try out Michael Connelly, who is one of my favorite authors. He picked up Connelly’s first, The Black Echo, loved it, and away he went, tearing through the rest of the books. But now that he’s done, he’s encountering a problem: what should he read next?
If you’re not familiar with him, Connelly’s novels are usually set in the glittery noir world of Los Angeles. His main character is Heironymous “Harry” Bosch, an intense and relentless homicide detective who often butts heads with authority figures and the rich and powerful – people who want crimes covered up or treated with kid gloves. (Harry Bosch isn’t the only character featured in Connelly novels, but he is certainly his best and most popular.) Bosch is a cop who sees his job as a mission, and he has an avenging angel quality to them without stooping to lame TV cop cliches. Action, when it occurs, is usually quick, brutal, and emotionally powerful. Connelly started his career as a journalist working the cop beat and his novels reflect this, with sentences descriptive yet short and to the point. There is no emotional hand-wringing or wasted words. Almost everything by Connelly is extremely readable and highly recommended, and better yet, you don’t have to read his novels in order – you can jump in at any time.
Similar to Connelly is Robert Crais. His main character, Elvis Cole, shares a common background with Harry Bosch (Vietnam veteran) and common city (Los Angeles) but as Bosch is often grim and humorless, Cole cracks wise at the first opportunity, using humor as a mask to deal with the brutality and seediness of the things he encounters in his job as a private detective. His novels are a bit more action-oriented but just as well-written as Connelly’s. Elvis’ partner, the quiet and intimidating Joe Pike, has earned himself a starring role in a few novels as well. It’s fun as a fan to see Crais’ style evolve over time – Cole’s humor lessens over the course of the novels, but carries more of an emotional punch. Start with Hostage, a brilliant stand-alone novel that was made into a overlooked Bruce Willis movie, and go from there.
I’d also recommend Lee Child, who writes the Jack Reacher series. Reacher, former military policeman turned freelance, reminds me of Matt Damon from the Bourne movies in that he’s always a thinker first. Reacher’s asskicking skills are without question, but before he does anything, from rescuing a kidnapping victim to a fistfight with some thugs in a back alley, he plans it all out in his head first. It’s an unusual characteristic, but it works, and it makes Lee Child’s novels really stand out from the rest of the thriller pack. Reacher is a Shane-like figure, as he blows into town, finds trouble, takes care of that trouble, and moves on. Avoid his latest novel, Nothing to Lose, but everything else is golden.
(In my head is a post explaining why all the kindly, blue-haired librarians on my listervs who usually read nothing but mysteries involving knitting or talking cats go absolutely bonkers over Jack Reacher novels, but that’s for another time.)