Michael Connelly, Dark Sacred Night (Orion Books) [PUB DATE 30 OCT] Connelly (recently awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger for his body of work) seems to be tiring of the San Fernando Police; tiring is the important word, as he’s feeling his age and knows that he’s begun making mistakes. He finds himself working with the woman introduced by last year’s story, The Late Show. Hence the new series ‘Bosch and Ballard’. Each of the detectives has baggage left from childhood. It’s neither an easy pairing nor an easy ride, as Bosch finds himself on the outskirts of law enforcement. Everybody counts, or nobody does. Bosch has a recovering opioid addict in his house, and it’s her daughter’s death that he is trying to solve. Renee Ballard is working the night shift, and following Bosch’s cold case. She calls is the hobby case, and shows the same willingness Bosch has for running toward danger. He has a heroic tendency to rescue his partners, and she is one of them. A good feature is that the book sees Ballard from her own point of view. Often the stabilizing influences in a new series bring in new characters, and readers have to find their own way through a lot of the bits and pieces that new series introduce. I am one of Connelly’s admirers, but–really–you have to pay a great deal of attention to detail to be able to follow the various plots of this book. And there are a variety of what might be police anecdotes about what kinds of problems officers are called out to solve. The denouement teeters on the brink of unbelievable, but that’s part of what we go to crime fiction to find.

Love is Blind The Rapture of Brodie Moncur by William Boyd This beautiful book, set at the end of the nineteenth century, revolves around a Scottish musician and piano tuner from Peebles. The series of setbacks Brodie Moncur survives are already heart-breaking when Brodie seems to find a haven in a piano store where he works in Paris. But then he meets the love of his life and with her a health problem and a fence he cannot jump. Thomas Mann and Joseph Roth are among Boyd’s influences. I have called this a Scottish Buddenbrooks, but it is also a Magic Mountain, not to mention Roth’s The Radetsky March. It is a marvellous amalgamation of Europe before The Great War.

Brodie Moncur is a fine musician and composer, who has created a new way of keeping pianos in tune. Sent to help rescue the Paris shop of Channon & Co., an Edinburgh piano maker and tuner, which is having trouble breaking even, Brodie realises that the Channon heir is skimming profits at a great rate, a fact that will eventuate in Brodie being sacked as if he were the thief. Thus begins his peripeteia through western Europe, often for years at a time the assistant to John Kilbarron, the great Irish pianist, who travels with his brother and his mistress. There is venomous hatred within the family and much of it is aimed at Brodie, though they all seem trapped in their various roles. There is a reason why Brodie finds himself often a target, which includes his father’s puzzling hatred of this eldest child and son which Brodie never understands.
The book is perfectly structured, and readers are likely to find themselves ahead of Brodie in the complex ravelling of the plot. Brodie has fallen deeply, and inescapably in love with Lika, the mistress, and his love is blind. He never sees, and never understands, why his father hates him with such venom. At the end of the book there is a reminiscence of the dying Chekhov, who was a doctor, receiving at the hands of his own doctor a glass of inferior champagne.
This is a book to savour, and to reread. I have been a Boyd fan for a long time: reading this, I almost didn’t cry at all.

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