Terry McCaleb, the retired FBI agent who starred in the bestseller "Blood Work," is asked by the LAPD to help them investigate aseries of murders that have them baffled. They are the kind of ritualized killings McCaleb specialized in solving with the FBI, and he is reluctantly drawn from his peaceful new life back into the horror and excitement of tracking down a terrifying homicidal maniac. More horrifying still, the suspect who seems to fit the profile that McCaleb develops is someone he has known and worked with in the past: LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch.
When a sheriff's detective shows up on former FBI man Terry McCaleb's Catalina Island doorstep and requests his help in analyzing photographs of a crime scene, McCaleb at first demurs. He's newly married (to Graciela, who herself dragged him from retirement into a case in Blood Work), has a new baby daughter, and is finally strong again after a heart transplant. But once a bloodhound, always a bloodhound. One look at the video of Edward Gunn's trussed and strangled body puts McCaleb back on the investigative trail, hooked by two details: the small statue of an owl that watches over the murder scene and the Latin words "Cave Cave Dus Videt," meaning "Beware, beware, God sees," on the tape binding the victim's mouth.
Gunn was a small-time criminal who had been questioned repeatedly by LAPD Detective Harry Bosch in the unsolved murder of a prostitute, most recently on the night he was killed. McCaleb knows the tense, cranky Bosch (Michael Connelly's series star--see The Black Echo, The Black Ice, et al.) and decides to start by talking to him. But Bosch has time only for a brief chat. He's a prosecution witness in the high-profile trial of David Storey, a film director accused of killing a young actress during rough sex. By chance, however, McCaleb discovers an abstruse but concrete link between the scene of Gunn's murder and Harry Bosch's name:
"This last guy's work is supposedly replete with owls all over the place. I can't pronounce his first name. It's spelled H-I-E-R-O-N-Y-M-U-S. He was Netherlandish, part of the northern renaissance. I guess owls were big up there." Bosch fits McCaleb's profile of the killer, and McCaleb is both thunderstruck and afraid--thunderstruck that a cop he respects might have committed a horrendous murder and afraid that Bosch may just be good enough to get away with it. And when Bosch finds out (via a mysterious leak to tabloid reporter Jack McEvoy, late of Connelly's The Poet) that he's being investigated for murder, he's furious, knowing that Storey's defense attorney may use the information to help get his extravagantly guilty client off scot-free.
McCaleb looked at the paper in front of him. The name she had just spelled seemed familiar to him.
"You forgot his last name. What's his last name?"
"Oh, sorry. It's Bosch. Like the spark plugs."
It's the kind of plot that used to make great Westerns: two old gunslingers circling each other warily, each of them wondering if the other's gone bad. But there's more than one black hat in them thar hills, and Connelly masterfully joins the plot lines in a climax and denouement that will leave readers gasping but satisfied. --Barrie Trinkle