Not shockingly at all, retirement doesn't sit well for Harry Bosch. As we saw in The Crossing, neither does working for defense attorneys. So what's a guy like Harry Bosch -- with that strong sense of mission driving him for decades -- to do with himself when the LAPD forces him to retire?
Naturally, he's going to get a PI license and do what he can with. But there's going to be a dearth of clients that want him to investigate the kind of crimes he's driven to investigate. Thankfully, the San Fernando Police Department is suffering a horrible budget crises and can utilize him as a reserve police officer looking at cold cases (this is an actual thing that happens, and was suggested by a member of the SFPD to Connelly as something for Bosch). This is work for free, true, but anyone who thinks that Bosch is driven by money in any real sense hasn't talked to him for five minutes.
Bosch is hired by an elderly billionaire (at least), to hunt down a potential heir to his empire -- his family "forced" him to abandon a lower-class woman after he impregnated her in the 50's, and now looking at his mortality rushing to meet him, he wants to pass things on to his heir. He doesn't have much to give Harry to start from -- a name, an employer, and a time frame. That's it. He needs Harry to keep this to himself -- and has him sign a very tight non-disclosure agreement -- because he doesn't trust anyone in the company he's the head of. He's right not to trust anyone, as Harry quickly learns, but that's a whole 'nother story.
This case grabs Harry's attention, particularly when he becomes convinced that he's tracked down the heir -- who served in Vietnam at the same time Harry did. In fact, Harry's reasonably sure that they were briefly on the same ship at the same time. In addition to this being very interesting, watching Harry backtrack this man's family -- this focus on Vietnam gets Harry to reflect some on his time there, and even discuss a bit with Maddie. I think this is the most that Harry has talked about Vietnam since The Black Echo (feel free to correct me in the comments), and I appreciate reminding us where the character comes from.
As interesting as that is -- both through the procedure Harry enacts, what's revealed about the case and himself, plus the surprising amount of peril that beings to follow him -- the other case that Harry's looking into is more up his alley.
In the course of his duties as a reserve officer, he's been looking through cases that haven't been closed -- the one he's focused on now isn't a murder (as you'd expect), but is a serial rapist. Between the way the cases were reported, the staffing problems SFPD has, some jurisdictional issues, and (most importantly) language barriers, it wasn't until Harry started reading all the case files he could get his hands on that patterns started to emerge and a coherent picture of one criminal's work became clear. The SFPD detective that Harry's working with, Bella Lourdes, seems like a solid detective -- probably not as obsessive as Harry, but a dedicated detective. She's able to handle the interview side of things better than Harry, actually (see the language barrier, among other things). As things heat up with the other case, Harry can't get away and Lourdes ends up carrying the water on vital aspects of this by herself. It's one of the healthier partnerships Harry's had, really. But don't worry -- at the end of the day, this is a Harry Bosch novel. Not a Harry and Bella. Harry'll put all the pieces together -- but not early enough to keep things from getting pretty harrowing for all involved.
MIckey Haller shows up briefly early on, and I thought "oh, that was a nice cameo." But at some point, he becomes a strong supporting character -- as important to the private client storyline as Lourdes was to the serial rapist. I appreciated the smooth way that Connelly merged Haller into this novel. But that's not all -- Harry spent a moment thinking about Jerry Edgar (is that the influence of the Amazon series, or just Harry getting retrospective?) and there was a completely unnecessary -- but nice -- little appearance by Det. Lucia Soto. Unnecessary to the plot, but it shows something about Harry, I think, that wouldn't have described him a few books ago.
The mysteries themselves are a shade on the easy side for this series -- but the fun in this comes from watching Bosch chip away, step by step, through the process. Sure, he cuts a corner or five, makes several lucky guesses -- but we're not looking for verisimilitude here, right?
That said, there were several moments in the latter third or so that I assumed I had everything worked out -- and I was right as much as I was wrong. Connelly didn't cheat, but he zagged a lot when I was sure he was going to zig. At this stage of the game, for Connelly to be able to fool me that often, that says plenty about his skill.*
A good ride for old fans -- a decent (not excellent, but acceptable) place for a new reader to jump on -- The Wrong Side of Goodbye capably demonstrates why Michael Connelly in general, and Harry Bosch in particular, has been at the top of the American Crime Fiction scene -- and likely will stay there for quite some time.
*Sure, it could say something about me, and what kind of reader I am, but let's give credit ot Connelly's craft and not my gullibility, shall we?