Saturday, December 3, 2016

Strong Entries

In 2004, Mike Moscoe adopted the pen name Mike Shepherd and moved ahead a couple of generations in his "Society of Humanity" universe to start writing the adventures of Kris Longknife, a very young officer in her planet's Navy with a long family tradition of trouble, guts and glory. With 2016's Kris Longknife: Bold, Moscoe/Shepherd winds up the first main arc of Kris's life as he brings her to the negotiating table of her family's deadliest enemies.

Vicky Peterwald and her father, the Emperor of Greenfeld, are at odds -- mostly because the Emperor's new wife wants to kill her. Vicky has gathered several Greenfeld planets in support of her, but she does not want to completely break with her father to outright attack her stepmother. The Emperor has asked for a cease-fire and wants Kris to mediate it. Vicky and her father sincerely desire rapprochement. Her stepmother the empress sincerely desires Vicky's death and that of anyone who stands between her and power, which includes Kris Longknife. This won't turn out well for the empress.

Bold makes a few missteps -- the number of characters in the series who have been attacked in a motorcade should alert pretty much all of them to take the subway for the rest of their lives, and Shepherd drops another such incident here. He spends rather more time on the opulence of the meeting and conference room than the details warrant. The Greenfeld-focused action moves the main storyline away from the mysterious near-human race Kris has fought several times before in defense of her home star-kingdom, which is really the more intriguing narrative in the series.

But he keeps his heroes witty and brave without the suffocating level of sang-froid David Weber piles on in his "Honorverse." And by making Kris a mother -- it involved sabotage, so don't ask -- he's added a new layer to her character and new concerns for her as she tries to do the right thing and prevent others from doing the wrong ones. Shepherd says in an afterward that Bold brings Kris to a turning point in her life and adventures, and so the changing tone helps set the stage for the next chapters in the story.
Harry Bosch has been run out of the Los Angeles Police Department, although it cost them the losing end of a lawsuit to do it. He now works part time at a small city department surrounded by the LA metropolis and takes on an occasional private investigation as well. In his official capacity, he's caught a string of sexual assault cases that suddenly seem to show a linkage and a disturbing pattern of escalation -- but nothing else that offers any clues about the criminal. In his private capacity, he's been hired by an aging wealthy businessman to search for a son the businessman may have fathered almost 50 years ago. Both cases will test his wits and he will find areas of them intersect his own life in unexpected ways in 2016's The Wrong Side of Goodbye.

Michael Connelly's 21st Harry Bosch novel shows little sign of the coasting that can plague long series. The search for the missing son -- who may or may not have ever really existed -- brings Harry into some close contact with his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. The connection he feels with the people surrounding the most likely person to be that lost son drives him forward in the case even when most of his reason for pursuing it disappears. The assault case heightens his concern for his daughter, who now lives near her college campus in an apartment the cop side of Harry will never believe his safe enough. Connelly makes a good choice to have Harry pursue two separate cases, as it allows him to avoid padding either of them in order to have them carry the weight of a novel alone. He uses recurring characters like Harry's daughter Maddie and his half-brother layer Mickey Haller judiciously and never just salted in for the sake of a walk-on appearance.

The Bosch character gained a slightly higher profile with two seasons of Amazon's Bosch TV series, meaning Connelly could easily start churning out second-rate work at a pace designed to keep his publisher and investment manager happy but let his fans down. So far, that hasn't happened, and Goodbye is one of the strongest Bosch stories of the series.

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