Random Review: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

This contains very mild spoilers, but nothing that gives away any part of the main plot.

Book Name: The Gods of Guilt
Author: Michael Connelly
Series: Book #4 in the ongoing “Lincoln Lawyer” series
Publisher(s): Little, Brown and Company/Vision
Format(s): Hardcover/Trade & mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Courtroom thriller
Release Date: December 2, 2013

Rating: 9/10

After 25 books one would think an author might lose a little bit off his fastball. Michael Connelly’s 26th novel, The Gods of Guilt, proves that he’s the Nolan Ryan of writers by building another faced paced story with a few twists and turns and an ending that leaves the reader satisfied and yet still wanting more.

In the previous “Lincoln Lawyer” novel, The Fifth Witness, Connelly has protagonist Mickey Haller novel running for District Attorney. In the only true bump in the story Connelly has Haller losing the election before the events of The Gods of Guilt begin due to a scandal involving a former client killing two people in a drunk driving accident. And, of course, Haller’s daughter was friends with both victims so that throws Haller’s relationship with his daughter into chaos. None of these events are really explained in The Gods of Guilt with any detail, and the fallout from them is only tangentially dealt with. It’s almost like a short story is missing from the timeline. Be that as it may, it’s the only real issue with the story.

The rest is classic Connelly, with well thought out twists and turns that move the plot along nicely without needing to resort to the phony cliffhangers many other mystery writers have to use. Twice I was certain I had figured out who the murderer was only to find myself wrong in the next couple of chapters. By the time the reader fully realizes who the real killer is the story comes down to how Haller will be able to prove it enough to get the jury, who he calls “The Gods of Guilt” because they determine guilt or innocence, to find his client not guilty. The two twists at the end close up the story nicely, but also gives the idea that there’s maybe more to this story to be dealt in the future.

I read the first 24 novels by Connelly in succession last summer, and the last two when they were released in paperback recently. I think it’s time I start buying the Connelly books in hardcover when they come out. That’s pretty much all you need to know about how good Connelly’s writing is.

How do you pick the next book you’re going to read?

I get asked that question a lot, especially from friends that have wandered into my office and see the bookshelves full of stuff I haven’t read yet. Right now my “to-read” list is about 200 books long (I don’t count it that often and don’t remember the exact number it was when last I did), which is a lot when you consider only books I own are on that list. But picking what I’m going to read next isn’t as hard as one might think.

Right now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m working my way though W.E.B. Griffin’s “Badge of Honor” series. As I’m reading them one after another picking what I’m going to read next is easy: the next one in the series. Like last summer when I ran though Michael Connelly’s books this summer was supposed to be all Griffin, but his stuff reads a lot slower than Connelly’s so it’s taken longer. “Badge of Honor” is the third series of Griffin’s I’ve read this year, and after I finish it (two more books to go!) I’ll just have his “Men At War” series about the OSS left.

After I finished his “Brotherhood of War” series I took a short break and read a few other things, two books I’d been waiting for that were in the military/thriller genre and then I went to Karen Miller’s “Godspeakers” trilogy for a change of pace. Picking the Miller series was easy, I said to myself “pick a fantasy trilogy”, and when I looked up there was “Godspeakers” right in front of me at eye level.

Then it was back to Griffin again for his “The Corps” series about the US Marine Corps, and when that was over I once again took a break for a book I was waiting for and continued on to Stephen Lawhead’s “King Raven Trilogy” while I waited for another book to come out. I picked the Lawhead books because I noticed they were separated into different bookcases. My OCD needed to keep them together, and the easiest way was to read them next. After I got bored with the fantasy stuff I saw I had a book misfiled (Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith) so instead of moving a ton of stuff to put it in the right place I read it next.

Which brings us to where I am now, nearing the end of the “Badge of Honor” series. Now as to what I’m going to read next I’ve already decided it will be The Gods of Guilt by Connelly. Assuming nothing comes out that I’m looking for before I finish the Connelly book it’s a good guess I’ll be switching back to sic-fi/fantasy for a bit. As some point before the end of the year I’ll start “Men At War”.

I know I’ll likely never read every book I’ve bought, mostly because I buy a lot of stuff from new authors just to support their hard work. Obviously most people don’t have as many at their finger tips to chose from as I do, so I’m curious as to how other decide what to read next. Do you just wander into a bookstore and pick up what catches your eye? Do you just fill up your e-reader and pick like I do? Or do you buy a large amount of books and work your way through them before buying more? I’d love to read your answers…

Some random book thoughts for November 2013

This is going to be a relatively short update as I only read a single book in October because I was so busy finishing up some other projects I didn’t have much time to read and, perhaps more embarrassingly, I misplaced one of the books I was reading.

In last month’s update I posted that as soon as I mashed the “publish” button I would be starting King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels, and that’s exactly what I did. And the few pages I read were awesome (as I expected, Daniels is a great writer) but I was drawn away from the book by some other things that came up and I put the book on my desk to continue a little later. Only it was four days before I would be able to pick it up again, and it was then I noticed it wasn’t on my desk anymore.

I searched high and low for King Breaker, but it was nowhere to be found in my house. One of the problems I was having searching for it was I was certain where I left it and didn’t take anything out of the house, like a bag or briefcase, that I could have absentmindedly tossed it into. Add to that I had some deadlines for projects going and it turned into a complete mess.

After a couple weeks of searching I hadn’t given up, but when I saw The Black Box had been released in mass market paperback I picked it up and started that book knowing like the other Michael Connelly novels it would be a quick read so even if I found King Breaker I wouldn’t have two books going at the same time like I had in September. The Black Box is a lot like the other Bosh novels, and I say that not as a negative but as a good thing. After so many novels using the same setting keeping it fresh can’t be easy, but despite using some of the same hooks from earlier books Connelly comes up with a very good story. With the passing of so many of my favorite authors there’s a good chance I’ll be “upgrading” Connelly to one of the few authors I buy hardcovers for. But alas, after reading The Black Box I still hadn’t located King Breaker.

Finally getting frustrated I gave locating it my full attention and spent almost four hours doing nothing but looking for it, and I eventually found it in the box of paperbacks I had already read. That box was in my basement, which means that for some reason without realizing I was doing it I carried that book down the stairs to my game room and dropped it into that box. It had to be me because my wife generally does not go down there and never (and I mean never) brings books down there. So once again, as soon as I finish up all the ongoing projects I have to do King Breaker will be up again.

I didn’t buy much last month because I didn’t really have time to go looking for anything. I did finally pick up Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Tony Venables and a couple by Terry A. Adams, The D’Neeran Factor (which is an omnibus edition containing Sentience and The Master of Chaos) and Battlegroud (the sequel to those two books). I have not picked up The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu yet, but I’m hoping to grab that this week sometime.

As for stuff scheduled for release in November the only one that is on my list is Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron). Of course there’s always a chance I’ll stumble into other stuff. Heck, it’s probably likely.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for July 2013

After a delay because of a week’s vacation and it being way too hot and humid to even think about blogging, here in the midst of a thunderstorm I finally can get a few thoughts posted. I unfortunately have no update on the two love birds I mentioned in a second posting last month. During my several trips to the bookstore I didn’t see either of them so I have no idea if it developed into anything yet. Maybe next time I’ll run into one of them, although odds are I won’t be asking them.

I finished my run through Michael Connelly’s books, which you can read about why I read them all and my thoughts on his first 15 books in last month’s posting. I posted that I had just started The Lincoln Lawyer, and like all of Connelly’s books before that one it was a pretty straight forward story with a nice twist at the end. For the record I figured out who the murderer of the second victim was fairly quickly but it didn’t ruin the story.

After that came Echo Park and The Overlook, two more featuring Connelly’s main protagonist Harry Bosch. After retiring and heading off on his own Bosch is one again a member of the LAPD operating out of the Open-Unsolved Unit looking at cold cases in Echo Park. The Overlook is an interesting story almost outside the usual Connelly timeline as it was originally published in sixteen installments in The New York Times Magazine. Connelly cleaned up some of the chapters and added some content for the book release. The Brass Verdict is the second Mickey Haller book, and again nothing new but a decent read. The Scarecrow, which features reporter Jack McEvoy and FBI agent Rachel Walling closes out the storyline started 13 years earlier in The Poet.

In the next four books Connelly the alternates storylines, with Nine Dragons and The Drop both featuring Bosch and The Reversal and The Fifth Witness featuring Haller. Nine Dragons is a change for Connelly as many of the pivotal parts take place in Hong Kong. The Drop continues the Bosch storyline, although for the first time Connelly has Bosch solving two separate mysteries. The Reversal is a departure for the Haller character as he works as a prosecutor in the novel instead of being his usual defense attorney. The Fifth Witness is a great read, and in my opinion is Connelly’s best book in a long while. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a very good story.

After so many mysteries there was no way my next book was going to be anything but science fiction/fantasy, and The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass was the one I grabbed. That book has been on my “to read” shelf the second longest of any series (one day I’ll mention what books have been there the longest), and after sitting there for so long it was time to finally crack it open.

There’s a funny story about the title, as the book is only called The Wayfarer Redemption here in the US. It’s called Battleaxe in every other part of the world, but as is often the case the title was changed during the publishing over here. To make matter a little more confusing, the first three books of the series are referred to as “The Axis Trilogy” while the second three books are called “The Wayfarer Redemption”. That means in the US The Wayfarer Redemption is not in the series in which it’s named for. Go figure.

In a sad note, Douglass passed away from ovarian cancer in September of 2011.

Being on vacation I made several trips to bookstores, and walked away with what many would think is way too many books. As I mentioned last month The Keepers of the Library by Glenn Cooper came out in paperback, so that was an easy grab. I also picked up Monster Hunter: Legion by Larry Correia. If you’re a science fiction fan and you’re not reading that series you should be. Off of Barnes & Nobles remainder rack I picked up the trade paperback of “The Videssos Cycle”, which reprints The Misplaced Legion and An Emperor for the Legion by Harry Turtledove.

In other trips I picked up The Hammer and The Blade and A Discourse In Steel by Paul S. Kemp and The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. Just moments before posting this I grabbed the latest out in paperback by W.E.B. Griffin, The Spymasters. All of those, plus what I already have, should keep my busy for quite some time.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for June 2013

This post will be a little different from the previous ones because I’m going to start with the book I’m currently on, The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly, instead of what I’ve been reading this past month. The reason is that not only is The Lincoln Lawyer the part that ends of the story, it’s also the beginning of the story. To get to that beginning, we need to step back a few years.

I’m not a very patient person, and there is very little I hate more than waiting for an appointment. I figure if I’m supposed to be there at a given time, the person I’m scheduled to see should also be ready then. Now obviously at places like doctor’s offices that’s not realistic, so every single time I’m heading to a doctor’s office I bring a book. After going to the same primary care physician for 15+ years I know how long my wait will generally be, so passing the time reading a book was time I considered well spent despite the circumstances. I knew however long he would need with me he would take the time, so presuming that would be true of all his patients I know that longish waits were occasionally in the cards.

A few winters ago while taking a glance at what I was reading Dr. T, as he frequently would do, started talking about what books he had just finished and among the titles was The Lincoln Lawyer. He had read a couple of Connelly’s other books and liked them, but he thought that The Lincoln Lawyer was one of the better books he’d read recently and couldn’t recommend it enough. He even went as far as to write the title down on his prescription pad. Up to that he point he had never done that before, the ‘norm’ was he’d mention a book or two and the conversation would move along. But not only did he write it down he came back to the topic a couple of times during my office visit. I was pretty much convinced I should check it out.

Later that afternoon after surfing eBay for large book lots and not finding anything that interested me I searched for The Lincoln Lawyer. Not only did I find several copies up for auction I also saw an auction for 22 different Michael Connelly novels. A quick Wikipedia search showed it was the first 22 fiction books he wrote, and as it worked out to under $1.50 each counting shipping I bought the lot. A few days later the books showed up, but as I didn’t have room on my shelf for that many titles I left them in the box to get to at a later date.

Where they promptly got covered by lots of other boxes and books, and were soon forgotten.

Flash forward to October when my wife and I moved into our new home, and the box ends up on top of a pile of other boxes as we move stuff from one house to another. Now with the extra space I got from moving they easily fit on my new shelves. A couple of times after I almost grabbed Connelly’s first book The Black Echo off the shelf, but something else would catch my eye and I’d be off to something else. That’s the peril of having so many choices, sometimes good stuff sits on my shelf for a long time before I get to it.

In late April I got word that Dr. T had passed suddenly after suffering a massive heart attack while gardening one Sunday evening. Along with reading, working in his yard/garden was one of the long list of other things Dr. T loved to do. I was shocked. He was such a good guy who should have had lots of great years still ahead of him. In an oddity I was supposed to have seen him just the next week where I was going to mention that at some point I was going to actually get around to reading The Lincoln Lawyer.

After a few days I figured now was a good time. So on May 5th I grabbed The Black Echo and started my run though Connelly’s books, figuring it would take me all summer (and then some) to get through them all. Amazingly I have gotten through the first fifteen novels Connelly wrote in a month and am now just starting The Lincoln Lawyer. There’s no way I could have ever expected to have that work out in time for a new blog post. So despite the already longish post there’s 15 books to talk about.

The first four books, The Black Echo, The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde, and The Last Coyote are all novels centered around Connelly’s primary character, LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. They’re all pretty straight forward detective novels. There’s nothing really new to the genre in any of these books, but Connelly does a pretty good job in each novel while keeping enough strings going in each book so that some minor ones continue on in the next book.

I did have some issues with The Concrete Blonde, which along with a murder case also has in its main story line a civil trial against Bosch concerning events that are brought up as back story in the first two novels. It was pretty obvious to me that Connelly didn’t consult with any lawyers about some of the plot points because what the plaintiff’s attorney was trying to do would not have been allowed, nor would she be able to bring up many of the things she did in the novel. It only detracts from the novel a little, and like most of the Connelly books I rated it four stars on Goodreads.

I read Trunk Music and The Poet backwards from the order that they were released, but because Trunk Music is a Bosch novel and The Poet is a stand alone novel it didn’t matter. Trunk Music, along with Angels Flight, and the continuation of the Bosch story line that again don’t bring anything new to the mystery genre but were still very good reads.

The Poet is an interesting book about a serial killer, only no one realizes there’s a serial killer in action until a newspaper reporter uncovers him while searching for information about his own dead brother. Blood Work is a mostly stand along novel, although many of the characters from the novel appear in future books. What’s funny about the book is I was about half way done before I realized I had seen the movie, which starred Clint Eastwood.

The next up for Connelly was Void Moon, a novel that’s centered on the “bad guy” (who is not really bad, nor a guy). After I first read the book I didn’t like it very much as I had lots of questions about why (and how) some of the things that happened could have happened. I originally rated the book low, but after a day or so I kind of worked out what the gist was and I rerated the book. It’s still worth reading, but it’s my least favorite of his books so far. A Darkness More Than Night has much of the same cast as Blood Work, only this time Bosch is added to the mix. The ending is a little predictable but it’s still a very good book. City of Bones is just a straight forward detective novel, but I still don’t understand the motives of Bosch’s love interest in the book. What she did makes no sense to me.

Chasing the Dime is another stand alone book, only this one really stands alone as up to The Lincoln Lawyer not a single character from Chasing the Dime has appeared in another Connelly book. To me this one was the strongest of the stand alones so far, but unless Connelly invents a reason for any of those characters to show up in a Bosch story I think we may have seen the last of them for now.

The last three I’ve finished, Lost Light, The Narrows, and The Closers are more of the same for Bosch, although in the first two he’s quit the LAPD and gone off investigating some cold cases on his own. In The Closers he returns to the LAPD to join the “Open-Unsolved” division, and what kind of investigator would he be if he didn’t start right out by solving a cold case? Which brings us right back to The Lincoln Lawyer.

I did make a couple Barnes & Nobel runs last month and grabbed a few new books, but because there’s a good story to tell about my second visit you’ll all have to wait for a few days for a ‘special” second book post this month.

Until then…