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review 2018-04-19 04:41
HBU # 3: The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly
The Concrete Blonde - Michael Connelly

In this third entry into the Harry Bosch Universe, we finally get more background on The Dollmaker case, which is really the case that catapulted Bosch to fame. Harry is being sued by the widow of The Dollmaker, whom he shot during an attempted apprehension, after the man reached under his pillow for what Harry thought was probably a gun, but which was, at it turned out, a toupee.

 

The widow is represented by prominent defense attorney Honey Chandler, who is nicknamed Money Chandler. Harry is represented by the county attorney, Belk. Harry is not satisfied with the quality of his representation. In addition, LA County has wanted to settle the case, but Harry won't let them. A significant portion of The Concrete Blonde occurs in the courtroom.

 

I am not really a fan of courtroom dramas - because I am actually a prosecutor, and I've tried a lot of criminal cases, reading courtroom dramas can be frustrating because I am all too aware of errors in procedure. I think it is probably human nature to struggle with books that cover territory that the reader has a deeper understanding of than the writer. This is the case with the courtroom portions of this book. I won't bore you with a detailed analysis of things that Connelly gets wrong, but there are aspects of the courtroom drama that he does get wrong.

 

Leaving those quibbles aside, though, I really enjoyed this book and thought that the mystery was exceptionally well done. During the trial, a body is discovered that appears to be from The Dollmaker, of a young woman who was killed well after Harry Bosch killed the man who the LAPD believed to be The Dollmaker. This throws the whole case into disarray, because the defense relies on the fact that the man that Bosch killed was a serial killer.

 

As the story develops, Harry has to look back into the old case and set aside his former conclusions in light of new evidence. He also has to work through his own discomfort with the possibility that he was wrong about the Dollmaker case four years earlier. And, again, his history becomes a significant aspect of the book, when Chandler accuses him of shooting the Dollmaker because he was avenging his murdered mother, whose killer was never brought to justice. 

 

We also finally get to see Bosch getting some support from the LAPD brass, including Chief Irvin Irving who, for the first time, tells Bosch that he would back him up no matter what happened with the jury, and that the shooting was justified. Bosch is also involved with Sylvia Moore, the wife of Calexico Moore, who he has been seeing since the end of The Black Ice. She is a thoroughly nice person, a teacher, and has tried hard to pierce Bosch's nearly impenetrable armor.

 

I enjoyed this book a lot, and really liked the fact that Connelly didn't fall back on the same trope of institutional corruption that the first two books really relied upon. The interactions between Bosch and the LAPD show a different, more functional and respectful, relationship with his peers. The relationship with Sylvia isn't going to last, but it's nice to see Bosch letting down his guard a little bit. 

 

Next up is The Last Coyote.

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review 2018-04-17 08:36
CONCRETE PLANET by Robert Courland
Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material - Robert Courland

TITLE:  Concrete Planet:  The Strange and Fascinating Story

             of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material

 

AUTHOR:  Robert Courland

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2011

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-61614-482-1

_______________________________________

 

From the blurb:

"Concrete: We use it for our buildings, bridges, dams, and roads. We walk on it, drive on it, and many of us live and work within its walls. But very few of us know what it is. We take for granted this ubiquitous substance, which both literally and figuratively comprises much of modern civilization’s constructed environment; yet the story of its creation and development features a cast of fascinating characters and remarkable historical episodes. This book delves into this history, opening readers’ eyes at every turn.

In a lively narrative peppered with intriguing details, author Robert Corland describes how some of the most famous personalities of history became involved in the development and use of concrete—including King Herod the Great of Judea, the Roman emperor Hadrian, Thomas Edison (who once owned the largest concrete cement plant in the world), and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Courland points to recent archaeological evidence suggesting that the discovery of concrete directly led to the Neolithic Revolution and the rise of the earliest civilizations. Much later, the Romans reached extraordinarily high standards for concrete production, showcasing their achievement in iconic buildings like the Coliseum and the Pantheon. Amazingly, with the fall of the Roman Empire, the secrets of concrete manufacturing were lost for over a millennium.

The author explains that when concrete was rediscovered in the late eighteenth century it was initially viewed as an interesting novelty or, at best, a specialized building material suitable only for a narrow range of applications. It was only toward the end of the nineteenth century that the use of concrete exploded. During this rapid expansion, industry lobbyists tried to disguise the fact that modern concrete had certain defects and critical shortcomings. It is now recognized that modern concrete, unlike its Roman predecessor, gradually disintegrates with age. Compounding this problem is another distressing fact: the manufacture of concrete cement is a major contributor to global warming.

Concrete Planet is filled with incredible stories, fascinating characters, surprising facts, and an array of intriguing insights into the building material that forms the basis of the infrastructure on which we depend."

 

There isn't much to say about this book that hasn't already been mentioned in the blurb.  The book is a well-written, accessible and enjoyable history of concrete and some of the structures built with it.  I did feel the history of concrete in the 20th century dealt more with the people involved than what the concrete was actually used for.   It would also have been nice if the author had inserted chemical equations etc - at least as an appendix - but otherwise it's an informative book about the subject matter.

 

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review 2017-06-23 21:15
The Concrete Grove - DNF
The Concrete Grove - Gary McMahon

Unfortunately, this one is a “nope”. I’m far enough in to know that the writing style will not work for me, but not far enough in to be able give it any kind of a rating. Ordinarily, I’d persist until at least 50 pages before making a decision about the book one way or another, and to feel comfortable assigning a rating, but as I’m going out of town this weekend, I just don’t want to deal with it.

 

So, DNF, no rating. I was reading this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly square Cars Land 18: Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013, or 2014, the years of Cars and its sequels, or that has a car on the cover, but will choose another book instead.

 

eBook version on Kindle app. 

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