Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

I know that I am one of many who thoroughly enjoys the work of Michael Connelly, with his gritty stories of Harry Bosch and others working on solving (or defending, sometimes even reporting) crimes that occur throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Some may know that Connelly began his career as a crime beat reporter, amassing much of the story ideas he would later make popular through the cases on which he reported. This book is a collection of reports, both backgrounds and follow-ups, that Connelly penned during his reporting career. With an introduction that gives the reader the insight into how Connelly witnessed his first criminal at the age of sixteen and the subsequent investigation made him want to report on crimes, the author paints a picture of how this type of writing soon got into his blood and helped him to craft the descriptions that pull readers into the stories. With the collection divided into three parts, the reader can see reports that feature the police, the criminals, and the unknown victims. Seeing the cases develop and those who worked hard to catch the perpetrators, Connelly shines a light on those with the badges and guns, though he does not only present the positive side of those in blue. The reader can see Connelly’s depiction of the criminals as well, with backstories on their lives and what might have led them to the life of crime before they were caught, or eluded capture and disappeared. The final section seeks to focus the attention the victim who was left without a clear identity, be it because they fell through the cracks of the system or the brutality they faced left them unrecognisable at the time of initial reporting. With some wonderful tie-ins to cases that Harry Bosch would eventually face (note, the book came long before anyone ever heard of Renee Ballard), Connelly shows his tireless fans that fact and fiction do something intertwine and make for entertaining reading. Recommended to those who love true crime seen through the eyes of the roving reporter, as well as the reader who has come to love the writing of Michael Connelly over the years.

While I am not an avid reader of true crime novels, I like to see where authors get their ideas. Many pull on experiences from their past (or current) professions and blur the lines effectively to keep things working well for their reading public while offering a degree of anonymity and keeping lawsuits at bay. While I have been a longtime fan of Connelly’s work (all series), it is interesting to see where some of the ideas emerged. I have watched a few seasons of the Amazon Prime show, Bosch, which pulls its ideas from the books, but this was even more interesting, as I could see from where the initial germination of writing ideas eventually blossomed. The cases are all over the place, from robberies to murder, kidnapping to assaults. All included both sides of the law, as well as a victim, pulling the reader into the middle, much like Connelly must have been as he used his access to case files and the like. The curious reader will see just how detailed things can get when a reporter has earned the trust of the police, though also kept his independence and is able to point out foibles in the system. Connelly writes in such a way that the reader cannot help but want to know more, seeking to eke out as many details as possible. While some attentive readers will see the parallels between the cases and the eventual books, anyone can enjoy this, with Connelly’s easy to digest prose and attention to detail. Well worth my time as I await another Michael Connelly publication, which just so happens to have a reporter as the protagonist!

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for all your hard work on the beat, which you have been able to turn into a stellar collection of novels that have stood the test of time.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: