The following post catalogues my reads from December 2022 through to early Feb 2023. The usual three books, one nonfiction title and two novels, are included. I began with Desert Star. This ebook forms Connelly’s latest release. A taut thriller with twists and subplots galore, Desert once again reaffirms Connell’s status at the top of the crime game. As a nod to his breezy writing, I took less time to finish Desert. I tried to follow this up with another world beater, John Grisham’s Boys from Biloxi. I very rarely give up on Grisham but after half the book, it was time to try others. Picoult’s Mad Honey is somewhat better than the latter. Co-written with Jennifer Boylan, the book confronts pervasive social issues of our time. It’s got some long chapters. After three weeks of reading, I felt like I’ve crested a small mountain. The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith rounds out last season’s reads. The Chicago Tribune writer chronicles the volatile first championship of His Airness. This is perfect for MJ fans. Three reads, all ebooks, was what I devoured by February.
1. Desert Star (Connelly). Initially, this book seemed daunting. The ebook clocked in at close to six hundred pages. Desert contains fifty four chapters plus an epilogue. Bit by bit, I managed to crest this read. Harry Bosch returns, this time as a volunteer agent in the open unsolved unit. Detective Renee Ballard resurrected said unit with help from Councilman Jake. The latter has been seeking justice for his family, one of myriads of forgotten cases in the department.
Connelly has been fixated with the Gallagher case, where an entire family was murdered before being buried in the desert. This is his so-called white whale, the one that got away, the one that still haunts him. As usual, the novel is set in Los Angeles, although there is a Florida interlude. Cheap motels, fine dining, the surf and sun, and damning clues are all part of the plot. Aside from Bosch, there are five other members of the unit: all retired but looking to contribute.
‘Bosch almost told him he couldn’t be fired because he was a volunteer, and that any effort to charge him or Ballard would be laughed out of the DA’s office along with Hastings.’
‘Bosch knew that tracing a bankrupt bar with no name and no location six years or more after the fact would be like trying to trace bitcoin. Impossible.’
The book is garnished with Connelly’s attention to detail. He even fashioned out this hip bartender who, like Bosch, had served in Vietnam. Only he was one better, as he fought as a marine. Furthermore, his daughter, Maddie, is all grown up and is wearing a badge as well.
‘Bosch didn’t say that the Troubles were largely in Northern Ireland, not Dublin.’
This was the kind of book I needed, a title that offered an escape from the status quo. Aside from being easy to read, the plot is very relatable and you could easily get sucked into the Connelly multiverse. Another Connelly technique is Bosch sifting through the rubbish to find incriminating evidence. This time Ballard joins in the fun, donning a hazmat suit. As Professor Snape once said: ‘Reveal your secrets.’ To top it off, his hero has a close brush with death. The book’s apex is classic Connelly. No wonder then that Desert is one of his best-rated titles.
2. Mad Honey (Jodi Picoult). This marks my seventh Jodi read. Like many of her titles, Mad Honey is set in small town America. This was more challenging than the rest, almost on par with Small Great Things. The plot is much more than boy meets girl. Asher is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Lily. His mother, Olivia, is the local beekeeper. She tries her best to protect her son and hires her only sibling, Jordan, to fight for him. The perspective shifts between Olivia and Lily, the character written by either Picoult or Boylan. The novel deals with spousal abuse, where both Lily and Asher’s mums escape violent relationships. Both of them move to New Hampshire to start afresh.
‘Even if he breaks your heart every time you hand it to him – that doesn’t necessarily stop you from loving him. The two are not mutually exclusive.’ – Olivia
Lily seems like the ideal girlfriend. She plays the cello, is a champion at fencing, very smart, and a good daughter. She goes out of her way to please Asher and they spend a lot of time in Asher’s treehouse. While the latter’s trial unfolds, Lily is revealed to be transgender. This shocks the courtroom and shifts the momentum against Asher. If he’s convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison. Jordan urges them that they just need to sprout some reasonable doubt against the state case. If even one juror disagrees, Asher’s name will be cleared. Throughout the trial, Asher is typecasted as the bad guy. The whole town evades Olivia, treating their family like lepers. Regardless, she does have the support of Mike, a former high school classmate.
‘She will stand in her pantry and her hand will close around that jar. maybe so much time will have passed that she won’t remember where it came from. But in all those years, it will never go bad.
It will keep, until she’s ready.’
Lily reveals how difficult it was to live as a trans woman. Upon outing herself, she faced the wrath of an entire school. Her father could not accept her transition (pun intended) and they had to leave him behind. Once, she even tried to take her life. She has the scars to prove it. Lily was once Liam, though she never felt at home with her former self. At seventeen, she became a post op tranny, though she had been taking estrogen since she was thirteen. The ending was typical Picoult. I liked her book from last year better, but this one’s a solid effort.
‘We are flawed, complicated, wounded dreamers; we have more in common with one another than we don’t. Sometimes making the world a better place just involves creating space for the people who are already in it.’
3. The Jordan Rules (Smith). This was originally released in 1991, after the Bulls won their first ever championship. Smith was with the team the whole season as they chased that elusive chip. Thus, he has a front row seat to the action. At the time, the book was controversial as it painted an unflattering portrait of Jordan. Indeed, His Airness has refused to sign copies of the book. This was reminiscent of Scottie Pippen’s portrayal in The Last Dance (2020). Smith sketches key figures and nemeses of the Bulls’s rise, including their GM and Isaiah Thomas. Smith even describes the late Tex Winter and little known benchwarmers like Willie Burton. He uncorks Jordan’s win-at-all-costs mentality, which extended to his gambling. He likewise canvasses the strong relation between Mike and his father.
A few times, Smith takes aim at the Bulls’s collective spirit. According to the journalist, they weren’t tough enough or serious enough to win titles. Most of the roles players complained about their contracts or their minutes. The duo of Michael and Pip was only after one thing: to be at the centre of the offence. Their selfishness caused a fracturing of the team. Horace Grant was their enforcer, only he couldn’t accept that he was merely the third wheel in the offence. BJ Armstrong wanted to start at point guard, but John Paxton was more unselfish and willing to run the triangle offence.
Months ago, I purchased this ebook. It was my latest basketball-themed text. I recall that Smith had rare breaks between chapters, and these were long instalments. As a result, some of Rules were more challenging than others. One thing’s for sure: the scribe is an excellent storyteller. Hence, his book has trended on the Times Best Sellers. As per the blurb, this is a great complement to The Last Dance. I knocked back this one in early February. I would rank this as the second-best Jordan book ever, after David Halberstam’s Playing for Keeps.