The Dollmaker died four years earlier, shot by Harry Bosch. A violent if happy ending to a reign of misogynistic terror waged by a serial killer who gained his handle from his macabre ritual of painting his victims with make-up. In the bathroom of the dead Norman Church there was plenty of make-up so there were few objections when Bosch made the match-up, helped by the fact that the same cosmetics were used on nine of the eleven victims.
And everybody lived happily ever after. Only in fairy tales apparently, because what little peace of mind Bosch had, he was to see it run through his fingers like sand.
On the night of the happy ending Bosch took a call from a sex worker, who told him she had been attacked … by the Dollmaker. Bosch headed to the scene with no great sense of urgency – something he decided to do when on his way home from duty. He felt it was another of those calls that use up time and police resources but ultimately lead nowhere. Not long after arriving he shot the man dead, fearing he was reaching for a gun. It turned out to be a toupee.
Still, there was more than enough evidence to link Toupee Man to all but two of the eleven killings he was suspected of having carried out. Bosch being Harry had not called for back up and in doing so got the backs up of the police department he worked for. Red carded, he was sent downwards.
Four years later Bosch is being sued by the widow of Toupee Man on the grounds that her husband was innocent. To make matters worse the body of a blonde woman entombed in concrete is discovered. The MO was that of the Dollmaker. Big problem for Bosch and the LAPD – the victim is dead no more than two years, while the suspected dollmaker was dead for twice that length of time. The pressure is on for the LAPD to find a real time killer who many feel was the real Dollman.
In Honey Chandler, the lawyer for the family of the late Church who is prosecuting Bosch for his killing, Harry knows he is up against it. Capable, shrewd, strategic, she never misses a trick. His work is really cut out and her dexterity pushes him onto the backfoot. The tension between the two never abates. From courtroom to the mean streets, the suspense carries over. Bosch turns up in court during the day and in the evenings goes on the hunt to catch what he is convinced is a new killer. His conviction that Church was the Dollmaker, after an early wobble or two, remains determined.
Connelly knows how to dance the twist. Each time a suspect appears there is a feeling of it has to be him. But it isn’t. The plot hurtles towards a tingling denouement.
Of the three novels read so far this is the best. If the second in the series can be said to have taken a bit of a dip it is only because Connelly set the bar so high in Black Echo. This moves it up a notch.
Michael Connelly, 1994, The Concrete Blonde. Little, Brown. ISBN: 0-316-15383-4