In Michael Connelly’s latest mystery, a cold case becomes active when Orlando Merced, the victim of a 10-year-old unsolved shooting, dies of blood poisoning from a bullet still lodged in his spine. Detective Harry Bosch of the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit is assigned to the murder investigation with rookie detective Lucia “Lucky Lucy” Soto.
After working three cases with Soto, Bosch thinks the 28-year-old with a kick-butt reputation is a good investigator who could become solid. Training a young detective and closing the Merced case seem like a good way to finish his last year before retirement. New blood taking over from old; it’s fitting.
When the bullet removed from Merced is identified as coming from a hunting rifle instead of a handgun, the focus of the investigation changes from a random driveby to a targeted assassination. After raking through the old murder book for leads, Bosch hits the streets, following his gut, while Soto searches police data banks.
Bosch agrees to take on a second cold case “under the table,” after he discovers Soto illegally researching it. A fire that killed nine kids and their teacher in a barrio apartment preschool 20 years before was ruled accidental until an accelerant was discovered a month later. By then, it was too late to follow any leads and the case went cold. Digging through the file, Bosch discovers a clipping about a bank heist the same day, just blocks away. Had the fire been a distraction for the robbery?
Working together in interviews, stakeouts, and interstate travel, the team builds momentum on both cases, determined that those who are evil will not remain hidden in darkness forever. But what happens if, when found, the killers lie beyond prosecution?
The Burning Room is meticulously plotted and paced, fascinating and suspenseful. Once begun, it’s hard to put down. While Connelly’s attention to detail, including the latest LAPD regulations, investigative tools, and techniques lends realism to the story, his sympathetic characters are what readers love about his series. Connelly alludes to three possibilities for his title: the place where children trapped by fire died, a session of “enhanced” interrogation better left unrecorded, and the hollow place inside a good detective where the demand for justice burns.