One thin dime

''Chasing the Dime''
By Michael Connelly
(Little, Brown, 369 pp., $25.95)

Buy it at in hardcover

Reviewed by John Orr
October 2002

Michael Connelly is back with ''Chasing the Dime,'' about Henry Pierce, a tech superstar in Los Angeles who's just been thrown out by his fiancee. At the same time he is trying to prepare for a big-deal presentation of his company's key device -- a power source to drive microscopic electronics inside the human bloodstream -- he is also trying to get used to living alone in an apartment.

But his new phone keeps ringing with would-be customers of Lilly, who turns out to be a beautiful prostitute who advertises on the Web. But nobody's been able to make contact with her for weeks. Pierce becomes interested and starts looking for her. He finds one of her apartments, where the bed is covered in blood but no body is on hand. Before too long, Pierce is in way over his head -- he himself is suspected of Lilly's murder, the future of his company is in jeopardy, his ex-fiancee is convinced he is a waste of her time even though he wants back with her, and everywhere he turns it looks more like some very clever person has set him up.

This book is a different approach for Connelly, whose police novels are quite good. This is a bright amateur playing at being a detective, attempting to use engineer thinking to solve a very complex crime. And Connelly turns some real cartwheels to keep Pierce's motivation believable -- but it must be said, Pierce's motivation turns out to be a key to the entire story.

And, as always, Connelly gets the details right: The first newspaper to break a story about a company in the same bioelectronics field as Pierce is the San Jose Mercury News.