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Literature / A Darkness More Than Night

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A Darkness More Than Night is a 2001 detective novel by Michael Connelly.

The two protagonists are LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, Connelly's most frequent main character, and Terry McCaleb, hero of previous Connelly novel Blood Work. The novel starts three years after the events of Blood Work. McCaleb is now married and the father of a little girl, with a prosperous charter fishing business on Catalina Island, but he is dissatisfied and yearns to get back into the crime-fighting business. Conveniently, he is asked to lend his expertise to an unsolved murder case. A dirtbag named Edward Gunn is found to have been murdered in a highly ritualistic manner. McCaleb winds up zeroing in as his main suspect on a homicide cop who was frustrated in his attempts to nail Gunn for murder years ago—none other than Detective Harry Bosch.

Bosch, meahwhile, is the lead detective in a high-profile murder trial involving Hollywood film director David Storey, who is accused of murdering a young actress. When he finds out about Terry McCaleb's investigation, he soon sniffs out that he is the target of a frame job meant to benefit Storey.


This novel supplied the main plotline for the third season of Harry Bosch TV series Bosch.

Tropes present in this work:

  • Arc Words: It is with this novel that "man on a mission" truly coalesces as Connelly's express characterization of Harry Bosch, though he has made reference to it in past works. Since his normally minimalist narrative style wouldn't really suit such a relatively colorful description in most Bosch novels, here we get it as part of the notes profiler Terry McCaleb took when he first worked with Bosch years ago.
  • Asshole Victim: Bosch tells McCaleb about Harvey Pounds' murder, calling him a "pure-bred asshole" but acknowledging that Harry's own actions got Pounds killed.
  • As You Know: Winston explains to Rudy Tafero, a former cop, why he's being charged with murder in his brother's death.
    I know you know the law, but I am compelled to explain the last charge. Your brother's death occurred during the commission of a felony. Therefore, under California law you, as his co-conspirator, are held responsible for his death.
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  • Awesome by Analysis: The instant Harry hears that Jaye Winston is asking questions about him, he knows that she and McCaleb are investigating him for Gunn's murder. Not wonders. Not suspects. Knows. Total facts available at that moment: Jaye asked Kiz about him, McCaleb visited him.
  • Back Story: In order to establish some camaraderie between Bosch and McCaleb, we're told that they had previously worked together on a murder case. Connelly later tells this story in full in the short story "Cielo Azul." Avoids being Canon Welding because the two characters were always part of the same 'verse.
  • Badass in Distress: McCaleb, immediately followed by Bosch, at the climax.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Bosch, immediately followed by McCaleb, at the climax.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Terry McCaleb, full stop. By chapter four, it's already been established pointedly that he never exceeds the safety limit for number of people on his boat, drives along the lanes of an empty marina instead of crossing through the vacant slips, and he passes up a beer to drink water, implicitly because he's back on the job now (he had had wine with dinner before getting started). Is it any wonder he finds it so easy to believe Cowboy Cop Harry Bosch is a killer?
  • Chaste Hero: Bosch tells Kiz he's not interested in meeting someone new because he's leaving the door open for Divorce Is Temporary. Moot because the "someone new" in question is Jaye Winston, who's actually just investigating Bosch. As soon as he hears who it is, he puts two and two together.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Continuity Porn: A whole lot; see Continuity Nod above.
    • This novel teams up Bosch and McCaleb. It throws in an appearance by Jack McEvoy, hero of non-Bosch novel The Poet, for no particular reason. And it even includes a reference to Thelma the parole officer from non-Bosch novel Void Moon, letting the reader know that Thelma survived getting shot and has gone back to work.
    • The murder victim is one Edward Gunn, a former prime suspect in one of Harry Bosch's cases. Bosch threw his supervisor Harvey Pounds through a window after Pounds read Gunn his Miranda Rights, which led Gunn to lawyer up. This whole story, which proves crucial to the plot, is also the backstory of 1995 Bosch novel The Last Coyote. It's why Bosch is on involuntary stress leave and visiting a psychiatrist at the start of that novel.
  • Dead Guy Junior: McCaleb was so taken with "Cielo Azul," the name Bosch gave to an anonymous murder victim, that he named his daughter after her.
  • Dirty Business: How Bosch views letting Tafero kill Gunn so he could turn around and take Tafero and Storey off the board.
    "Three people — three monsters — are gone."
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Harry Bosch has really developed a drinking problem in this novel; McCaleb notices it repeatedly. Along with the smoking, it's clearly a symptom of his having lost Eleanor.
  • Erotic Asphyxiation: The murder victim in the David Storey case is found nude with a scarf around her neck in a pose that would suggest auto-erotic asphyxia, but Bosch believes that the scene was staged to disguise a murder as an accident.
  • Frame-Up: The whole Edward Gunn murder is an elaborate plot to frame Bosch in order to ruin the David Storey trial and get Storey acquitted.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Harry Bosch more or less let Tafero kill Gunn. Tries to justify it with I Did What I Had to Do.
    • Also, he makes a couple of truly cruel remarks to Rudy Tafero after the brothers try to kill McCaleb and Bosch.
    "Yeah, it's too bad," Bosch said without a note of sympathy in his voice. "The kid had a bright future helping you kill people and getting people out of jail."
  • High-Class Call Girl: Turns out that Annabelle Crowe teeters on the edge of this, accepting cash and other gifts from the men she goes out with. This does not help when she testifies for the prosecution in the David Storey trial.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Bosch's response to McCaleb's What the Hell, Hero? speech.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Jack McEvoy, hero of The Poet, turns up as the reporter who gets the Bosch-Gunn story. Bosch has to hustle to find out who the real killer is before McEvoy publishes his story and ruins the David Storey case.
  • Irony: In a past-case flashback, someone says that Bosch must have kids because of a clue he spotted. Of course, he didn't in the past case, and as far as he, or the reader, knows doesn't in the present time, either. But as we discover later, he actually does have a daughter by this point.
  • Jumped at the Call: McCaleb's only real character flaw in this book, and one Connelly doesn't shy away from: when Winston shows up, he puts up the weakest resistance humanly possible before accepting the case, despite knowing that it's a bad idea and will hurt his relationship with his wife.
  • Knight Templar: Given his earlier classifications of Bosch as an "Avenging Angel" and a "Man on a Mission," this is what McCaleb suspects Bosch has finally crossed over to. He comes around.
  • Lead Police Detective: Harry hasn't been on the witness stand for a while, so this is our first chance in several years to hear him explain in so many words what his job is and where it fits in the ranks. As of this novel, he is a Detective, 3rd grade, which he explains is equivalent to Detective Sergeant, but that's a rank the L.A.P.D. does not use; one step up would be Detective Lieutenant. Also, he specifies that he is the lead detective of a three-detective team at Hollywood division's homicide squad, with some supervisory responsibilities over other officers.
  • Loophole Abuse: The government won't keep paying for Terry's medication if his income surpasses the limit required to qualify for the benefit. His charter fishing business officially belongs to Buddy, who merely rents Terry's boat for the business. The rent doesn't count as Terry's income because he signed the boat to his wife.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Subtly inverted when McCaleb sets a cold beer down on one of Bosch's speakers, and Bosch picks it up and wipes the wet ring away. Feeds into McCaleb's profiling of Bosch, adding a touch of OCD to his Killer Cop suspicions.
  • Murder by Inaction: The ending reveals that Harry knew that the bad guys were going to kill Gunn and did nothing to stop it. For all his Cowboy Cop antics and his hardboiled persona Harry's sense of right and wrong usually stops him from doing stuff like this. McCaleb calls him out in the last chapter and the novel ends with Harry agonizing about whether he crossed the Moral Event Horizon.
  • New Year Has Come: The murder McCaleb is investigating took place on Jan. 1, 2001 and is the first murder of the year for the LAPD. Det. Jaye Winston speculates that it may have something to do with the turn of the millennium.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Inverted. Connelly helpfully tells us that Judge Houghton has a nickname: "Shootin' Houghton," which should definitively establish that his last name is pronounced to rhyme with "Shootin'."
  • One Phone Call: A plot point, as McCaleb wonders how Gunn got bailed out of jail when his phone call to his sister was rejected.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Terry thinks that Buddy Lockridge is apologizing for leaking information about the case to a reporter. Buddy didn't leak to the reporter; he was apologizing for hiring a hooker to visit him on Terry's boat.
  • Ominous Owl: The killer leaves owl figurines as tokens.
  • Orgy of Evidence: McCaleb initially thinks it's a sign of a frame, but his profiler's instincts take over and he comes to think Bosch has all the markings of a Killer Cop. It's a frame.
  • Plea Bargain: Rudy Tafero exposes David Storey in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. After Tafero produces evidence to keep people from suspecting he's lying to save his own life, Storey agrees to plead guilty so he'll also avoid the death penalty.
  • Product Placement: Du-Par's restaurant, apparently a favorite of Connelly's.
  • Quip to Black: When Fowkkes' Punny Name finally pays off:
    "That's all, Fowkkes," Bosch said under his breath.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Jaye Winston has a suspicion that the Gunn murder investigation cannot wait, and she is absolutely correct about that; the problem is, she suspects that it's a Serial Killer case and there will soon be another victim. The fact is, everything is part of a Frame-Up to discredit Harry Bosch's testimony at the David Storey trial. Had she not gotten Terry McCaleb involved, it's entirely possible that Storey's plan would have worked.
  • Saying Too Much: How Bosch accidentally reveals that he knew who killed Gunn and let the Storey conspiracy happen.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When McCaleb arrives at The Following Sea, Buddy says he's watching "a show about this task force that goes after computer hackers," almost certainly a reference to Level 9, a short-lived series of which Connelly was an executive director. See Trivia page for more.
    • Like in Blood Work, the book Buddy is reading (here identified only by title but almost certainly Val McDermid's The Wire in the Blood) is real; this one is another murder mystery and follows the work of two profilers chasing down a serial killer. Like the Bosch stories would later be, this book and others about it's main characters would later be made into a TV series.
    • McCaleb tells Bosch that, to the bureau's civil rights division, nailing down an LAPD cop is more valuable than Park Place and Boardwalk together.
    • Terry knows that one suspect is the killer when he looks at the suspect's book shelf and sees a copy of The Collector.
    • Harry lures Annabelle Crowe out of hiding by tricking her into coming for a fake audition for a remake of Chinatown.
  • Significant Name: Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch painter who specialized in nightmarish hellscapes. The rather dark nature of the original Bosch's work, as well as elements of several Bosch paintings occurring in Gunn's murder scene, leads McCaleb to take even more interest in Detective Harry Bosch as a murder suspect.
    • In-universe, McCaleb and Winston's finding Jerome Van Aiken and Lubbert Das in the order records for the owl figure were big pieces of evidence in the Frame-Up against Bosch.
  • Spotting the Thread: Bosch accuses McCaleb of having "missed something," which compels McCaleb to go back through the case again, where he finds the clues that unravel the case.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Bosch thinks this as he fights his way through the scrum of reporters at the David Storey trial.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Downplayed, since we aren't told Gunn's name when we see him in the prologue, and it isn't made clear until some time after we learn he died that that was him in the prologue.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Switches back and forth between dual protagonists McCaleb and Bosch.
  • Title Drop: An art expert describes the bleak darkness of Hieronymus Bosch's worldview as "a darkness more than night."
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Harry Bosch, two years after losing his wife Eleanor, has developed something of a drinking problem, has gone back to smoking, and is in every way very much the asshole he has regularly been referred to by other characters. Even being framed for murder doesn't really make him a more sympathetic character. Since he does not have the sole spotlight in this story, we get to see him at a little more of a distance than usual, and the picture isn't pretty.
  • A True Story in My Universe: The book and film of Blood Work are, in universe, Based on a True Story of McCaleb's investigation of the Code Killer.
  • We Meet Again: McCaleb, word for word, after using the term "UnSub" to refer to Gunn's killer in his notes.
  • Wham Line: A very minor one, given that it comes early, but to those familiar with Connelly's 'verse, Edward Gunn's name as the victim in the murder book McCaleb is working through instantly brings Harry Bosch's presence in this story into focus.
  • What Have I Done: Bosch gets a strong dose of this after McCaleb confronts him and leaves. He gets over it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: McCaleb gives this speech to Bosch when he figures out that Bosch more or less let David Storey's conspiracy play out in order to get Gunn killed. Bosch throws it right back at him for the way McCaleb went to Rudy Tafero's office and provoked him, resulting in the death of Tafero's brother when they try to kill McCaleb.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: What McCaleb's suspicions about Bosch amount to. He was a very successful FBI serial killer profiler, but has been out of the game for a while, so naturally, when clues start pointing toward Bosch being a Killer Cop, he runs with it. The problem is, this isn't actually a Serial Killer story, it's a Frame-Up story using a Serial Killer motif. In his prime, McCaleb probably wouldn't have been fooled.