'Chasing the Dime' Reviewed

Harry Bosch is gone, but Michael Connelly introduces us to Henry Pierce in his latest L.A. noir, Chasing the Dime.

Chasing the Dime

by Michael Connelly

Little, Brown, 369 pp., $25.95

Michael Connelly left readers on hold at the end of his last novel, City of Bones, when he let Harry Bosch, the protagonist of nine popular and definitive L.A. homicide detective novels, walk away from his job. While fans of Connelly's brooding and brilliant L.A. homicide cop wait to see if he ends up as a PI or street corner busker, the author has turned out a new meditation on L.A. noir, Chasing the Dime. Protagonist Henry Pierce, an ex-surfer/hacker/anarchist, has grown up to be a research scientist and leader in the field of nanotechnology. Pierce has recently made significant advances in the quest for computers the size of a dime, powered by memory circuits tinier than the period at the end of this sentence. Poised on the verge of the most important high tech breakthrough of the new millennium (and a critically needed influx of venture capital), plus having just broken up with his girlfriend, Pierce moves into a new apartment with a new phone number that apparently previously belonged to a highly paid and very much in- demand prostitute named Lilly. At first annoyed, then intrigued by the flood of anxious callers, Pierce logs onto the Web pages of an "escort" service called LA Darlings and swallows the hook. Lilly's missing, it turns out, and instead of shrugging it off and getting a new phone number, Pierce risks all to doggedly pursue the mystery of the apparently murdered girl, missing all of the obvious don't-go-there-dude forebodings that have been ignored by no-hope heroes in the annals of noir from Naked Kiss to Kiss the Blood Off My Hands. Taking us deep into the world of propeller head geeks -- who might, in light of their propitious slide into doom, become ever more frequent figures in crime novels -- Chasing the Dime makes a parallel journey into the seedy world of Internet prostitution, a field that one character asserts is the Internet's biggest money maker, by a factor of billions. Technology has not, we learn, made that world any less gentle, or any easier to get out of alive. Framed for murder, cornered by a dogged homicide cop, and beaten nearly to death by hoods, the shadows and gloom surrounding this likable protagonist are so sharp that you'll get paper cuts. It's also deliciously ironic that Connelly twists his hero up in a plot coiled between super-advanced technology and that most basic device of noir, the telephone. "Henry, what's going on with you?" asks his befuddled ex-girlfriend, Nicole (as in Simpson). "I got a wrong number," he deadpans. Somebody dig up Robert Mitchum -- he could make that line sing, baby!

Michael Connelly will be prevalent in Bouchercon 2002 festivities, but he'll also be at BookPeople on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 1pm.
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Michael Connelly, Chasing the Dime, Little, Brown

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