A harrowing trip
through 'The Narrows'

''The Narrows''
By Michael Connelly
(Little, Brown; 405 pp.; $25.95)

Buy at Amazon

Reviewed by John Orr
May 2004

At the end of one of Michael Connelly's popular thrillers, ''The Poet,'' the serial killer Robert Backus just disappears. On his web site Connelly explains he meant Backus ''to always be out there like a killer ghost haunting my fictional world.''

But, as Connelly explains, it became time to deal with Backus again, and do so he chose ''his best man,'' Harry Bosch, and in ''The Narrows'' it's Bosch vs. Backus in what you can be sure is a fight to the finish.

This is a high point among Connelly novels as he reconfirms his status as one of the best and most reliable of mystery writers, and draws upon characters from others of his novels.

Among them Terry McCaleb from ''Blood Work,'' which was made into a Clint Eastwood movie. In ''The Narrows,'' McCaleb dies, seemingly from natural causes (Eastwood attends the funeral). After all, in ''Blood Work'' McCaleb'd had a heart transplant, which means he was always on borrowed time. But his wife Graciela knows better; McCaleb's meds had been tampered with.

She hires former L.A.P.D. detective Bosch to investigate.

Bosch's snooping around quickly leads him to bumping noses with the FBI -- again -- but gets him back on better terms with the L.A.P.D., where a management change has made it possible for Bosch to at least think about joining up again. He misses that gold badge.

But before he makes that decision, he needs to deduce what happened to McCaleb, who though retired, had been investigating unsolved crimes from his career. Including the missing Backus.

Turns out Backus -- a former FBI agent himself -- may have returned to his old hobby of murdering people.

This is an excellent mystery in classic and modern senses, as Bosch wrestles with his personal demons -- including his situation with his young daughter Maddie and her mom -- and actually uses deductive reasoning based on clues to find out what happened to McCaleb. And there are lots of twists and turns that not only keep the thrill level high, but the emotional level as well.