The Black Box

By Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 403 pages. $27.99 )

This guy can write! That’s not news to Michael Connelly’s legions of fans, but to someone who picks up one of his books for the first time it’s a real eye-opener — and a tremendous pleasure. This book, the author’s 25th, has veteran LAPD detective Harry Bosch, assigned to a cold-case squad, looking into the shooting death of Anneka Jesperson, a photojournalist, during the 1992 Rodney King riots. Harry remembers the call to the crime scene as if it were yesterday. How could he not? The victim was a white woman in her early 30s, dubbed “Snow White” by department wags, and she had been executed, not randomly gunned down. Now, with the 20th anniversary of the riots approaching, the gun that was used to kill Jesperson falls into Bosch’s hands. If you’re thinking “yeah, sure,” forget it. Connelly knows how to do this stuff, and everything that happens as the story unfolds has the solid feel of authenticity. The weapon leads from the bad back alleys of L.A. to San Quentin prison and Iraq. The dialogue is outstanding, the plot superb and the characters entirely convincing. Nice mix, too, of street thugs, imprisoned cons, unctuous cops, lowlifes and stand-up guys. And, there’s a great twist to the story at the very end. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of catching up to do with Harry Bosch.

MICHAEL J. BONAFIELD, night copy editor


The Ninth Step

By Grant Jerkins (Berkley , 291 pages, $15)

Grant Jerkins’ new novel, “The Ninth Step,” is a gripping tale of two troubled people who are caught up in a deadly hit-and-run accident. Veterinarian Helen Patrice is a closet alcoholic whose 12 steps of recovery land her at the doorstep of Edgar Woolrich, whose wife was killed in a crash with Patrice’s car. They both carry disturbing secrets that propel them toward a chilling, unexpected destiny. The writing is top-notch, as in Jerkins’ two previous thrillers. His stories have been compared to Hitchcock movies because they take ordinary people into the dark, criminal edges. He creates a thicket of suspense that makes this novel hard to put down.

David Shaffer, reporter