Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Cielo Azul

"Cielo Azul" by Michael Connelly, Dangerous Women Edited by Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press, Trade Paperback, $13.95

This story features Detective Harry Bosch and Special Agent Terry McCaleb together again for the first time. Let me explain that. In the book, A Darkness More Than Night, McCaleb and Bosch talk about a case they worked together several years before. A case that haunted both of them. As a gift to the people on his mailing list Mr. Connelly wrote this story explaining the case and chronicling the first time Bosch and McCaleb met.

Harry and his partner, Frankie Sheehan, are called out on a dead body discovery. The victim, a teenage girl, has been found nude in a display position partway down a steep hillside off Mulholland Drive. Harry feels an immediate bond with her. "A woman with no name left dead on the hillside. A woman no one had come forward to claim. A woman no one cared about. The dangerous kind. In my secret heart I cared and I had claimed her."

The scene is practically sterile, and they can't identify the girl. The only clues they have are the fact that her body was washed in an industrial strength cleaner and a partial license plate number embossed into the skin on her hip. They get a listing of all California plates with that partial number, over a thousand. They narrow the list down to 36 men with criminal records. To narrow the list further Harry takes the list to Special Agent Terry McCaleb, the resident profiler in the L.A. FBI office. Between them, they narrow the list to two suspects. They catch the guy, but are they in time to prevent another murder?

The story runs on two time tracks: the present, when the man convicted of the crime is about to be executed, and the past, the time the case occurred. Mr. Connelly handles the transitions (10, but who's counting) well. I never got lost.

They never identified the girl, a fact that has haunted Harry for all those years. Because he didn't know her name, he called her Cielo Azul. In the present Harry tries to get the killer to tell him the name of the Little Girl Lost. Harry and, it turns out, Terry both think it is important.

The story printed in this volume is a little different than the original with some additions emphasizing the "dangerous women" part that, in this case, has an unconventional meaning. Actually I think this version is a little better. I felt that the revised story brought out Harry's emotional connection to the victim more strongly.

In short, a terrific story.