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Literature / Chasing the Dime

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Chasing The Dime is Michael Connelly's twelfth novel, and the fourth which does not feature Detective Harry Bosch as a main protagonist. The story is more of a techno-thriller than Connelly's past works, which in combination with Connelly's involvement with the TV series Level 9 and Harry Bosch retiring at the end of City of Bones, implied a Genre Shift that never really materialized.

Instead of Bosch, our one-off hero is Henry Pierce. Pierce is an entreprenur in "molecular computing", an experimental field that seeks to reduce computers to molecular size, thus creating machines the size of a dime (hence the title), or smaller. Possibilities in the field include computers tiny enough to be injected into the human bloodstream where they could be used for diagnostics. Pierce has just created a revolutionary new device, a molecular-sized power source—no AC outlets in a human being's arteries—which could open up the whole field of molecular computing. His company is about to make a pitch to a rich investor whose capital is needed to bring Pierce's theoretical device into reality.

Unfortunately for Henry, his personal life is not as neatly organized as his company. Henry is actually mired in deep depression, having just broken up with his girlfriend, Nicole. Henry is moving into a new apartment following the breakup, and has gotten a new phone to go with the apartment. The phone starts ringing off the hook with calls from strangers looking for a prostitute named Lilly. It seems that the number Lilly the hooker posted on the Internet for potential johns is the same number that has just been reassigned to Henry.


The connection to an Internet call girl has special meaning for Henry. His older sister was a teenaged runaway who took to life as a Streetwalker before she was murdered by a serial killer. That, and his general depression following the breakup with Nicole, leads Henry to seek out the beautiful, mysterious Lilly. He hopes to save her, after he failed to save his sister. However, Henry gets more than he bargained for, and winds up snared in a far darker mystery.


Tropes present in this book:

  • Alliterative Name: Lucy LaPorte of Louisiana. Lampshaded by Zeller.
    • Detective Robert Renner, though Janis calls him Bob on the phone.
    • William Wentz, usually called Billy but properly identified in the background check material.
    • Also Amedeo Avogadro, though he's only mentioned as the source of Pierce's company's name, he's not a character.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Molecular chemist Henry Pierce, Ph.D., of course.
  • Backhanded Compliment: Curt at All American Mail, who offers box 27 as an alternative to box 333 for "Three Cubed Productions."
    Curt was smarter than he looked.
  • Bad Boss: Both Wentz and Zeller.
  • Batman Gambit: The entire Frame-Up plot is one, which was put in motion some six weeks before the beginning of the book in order to put Pierce in a position to sell out his patents cheap.
    He now understood that the setup—his setup—had counted on his own moves. Every one of them. The setup was reliant on his own history and the likelihood of his moves based on that history. Like chemicals on a silicon wafer, elements that could be relied upon to act in a predictable manner, to bond in expected patterns.
  • Bland-Name Product: Averted. Lucy LaPorte patronizes Domino's Pizza, which saves Pierce a lot of dialing.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Averted, despite being one of Connelly's favorite tropes.
    ... Pierce saw no blood on [Renner's] lips. This meant his lungs were likely intact.
  • Brick Joke: "You said next time bring you a pizza."
  • The Brute: Six-Eight.
  • Caught on Tape: Despite making Renner turn off his tape recorder, Pierce manages to accidentally say that Lilly's death was his fault while Renner's backup tape recorder was going in his pocket.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A couple:
    • The voice-operated lights are themselves this, but more specifically the fact established early on that they are keyed to a particular user's voice, which is where their real value comes into play later.
    • The heat resonance goggles, downplayed in that the name given to them does not instantly suggest what they might be used for later the way "Night-Vision Goggles" would.
  • Clear My Name: The plot pivots toward this when Renner sets his sights on Pierce for Lilly's disappearance, and goes into high gear when Pierce discovers he's being framed.
  • Computer = Monitor: Averted; at the climax, Zeller recognizes that a computer is turned on but the monitor isn't. That clues him in to something being amiss.
  • Continuity Nod: It isn't a Harry Bosch novel, but Connelly makes sure to place Chasing the Dime in the Bosch universe along with all the rest of his novels.
    • Janis Langwiser appears, having last been a character in A Darkness More Than Night. She mentions that Harry Bosch has just retired.
    • Henry Pierce's sister was a victim of a serial killer called the Dollmaker. Harry Bosch killed the Dollmaker some years ago, and the aftermath of the Dollmaker case is central to Bosch novel The Concrete Blonde. And in fact the cop mentioned in a flashback, while not named, is implied to be Bosch himself.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In-universe. At the climax, Pierce deduces that it was entirely too much of a coincidence that he got Lilly's old phone number: the much simpler explanation is that Zeller took Pierce's new number and put it on Lilly's page of the website. Leads to a Plot Hole.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Fewer than usual for Connelly, and rather narrow in scope, but present:
    • Both this book and City of Bones (both released in 2002) have characters who live in Venice, California.
    • A few of the tactics used by Henry Pierce in tracking down Lilly Quinlan recall moves made in Void Moon by Jack Karch: specifically, scamming someone at a mail box location to elicit a lead and calling out the name of the resident of a house while entering it illegally in order to appear legit to any onlookers.
    • There's another I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You moment, as in Void Moon. Notable because this is not normally one of Connelly's go-to tropes.
    • Renner wears a porkpie hat, as did Karch in Void Moon. Possibly Fauxshadowing.
    • An inversion with Blood from the Mouth. Most of the Bosch novels have a character getting shot, Harry seeing blood from the mouth, and Harry realizing that said character will die. In this one Henry observes that Renner does not have any blood from the mouth, so he will live.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: According to Vivian Quinlan, this is the reason the L.A.P.D. wouldn't bother looking for Lilly when she tried to report her as a missing person.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Pierce generally doesn't like being called "Dr. Pierce" by colleagues, and detests being called "Hank" by anyone.
  • Double Tap: Wentz, courtesy of Pierce of all people.
  • Downer Beginning: Opens with Henry moving into an empty bachelor pad, deeply depressed about his recent breakup with Nicole.
  • Eureka Moment: After some internal If My Calculations Are Correct processing, Pierce arrives at the conclusion that Nicole was framing him in a "moment of clarity." Turns out he's wrong about Nicole, but he has another one later that's right, because we aren't privy to his thoughts that time. This leads to one more, discussed under Contrived Coincidence.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Zeller learns that Pierce was wearing a wire while he confessed to the Frame-Up, he calls Pierce a motherfucker. Pierce immediately Lampshades it:
    You set me up for murder and you get upset that I'm wired.
  • Exact Words: A bit of a Rewatch Bonus: the line given early is "control the patents and you are in on the ground floor and you will eventually control the market." Not file the patents, nor own the patents: control the patents. This is where the actual plot behind the Frame-Up is focused, albeit with the intention of using that control to make sure the patents are not used rather than to control the new market they would create.
    • From Nicole's statement that there was blood on the wall outside Pierce's apartment where he'd been dangled from his balcony, his statement later at the meeting with Goddard that he "hit a wall" is more than Metaphorically True, though it is that, also. From that same meeting, "I wasn't even driving."
  • Failed a Spot Check: Pierce fails to notice two new keys on his keyring until they become plot relevant.
  • Frame-Up: Pierce goes out of his way to make himself an easy patsy for Lilly's murder, but it turns out to be an even bigger plan.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Invoked as a threat by Pierce as part of his effort to get contact information on Lilly.
    "I want this fixed. If you put it off until Monday, then I am going to sue you, this company, Mr. Wentz and anybody else I can find associated with this place. Do you understand?"
    "You can't sue me. I just work here."
    "Wendy, you can sue anybody you want to in this world."
  • Genre Savvy: See Secret Test of Character.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: How Wentz and Six-Eight deal with Pierce. Really, more High Altitude Intimidation, but they do ask a few questions.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lucy LaPorte eventually, though downplayed because she's so scared for her own safety.
  • Human Popsicle: Of the Dead Man's Chest flavor: where Pierce discovers Lilly Quinlan's body.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Zeller to Pierce, about his current project. Seems like a joke, but when Zeller is revealed as the Big Bad it's revealed to be true.
  • Indy Ploy: Pierce comes up with the idea of finding Lucy LaPorte by calling Domino's on the fly, and it works on the second try.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: The plot gets rolling when Henry Pierce starts getting plagued with calls for a hooker named Lilly, and tracks his new phone number down to a sex-trafficking website where Lilly has a page. Later, Glass the detective goes on a spiel about how porn is the only business on the internet turning a profit (in 2002 this was probably true).
  • Internal Reveal: Until more than three-quarters of the way through the book, Lilly is only missing. Then Pierce finds the freezer.
  • In Vino Veritas: In The Reveal, it turns out this is how Zeller learned the truth about Pierce's sister. Pierce had no memory of telling him.
  • It's All My Fault: Pierce's motivation for trying to find Lilly is based in his sister's death years before. In a very bad moment of confusion, Pierce accidentally says the words out loud in front of Detective Renner, who takes it as a confession.
  • The Mafia: Wentz and his partner Grady are, according to Zeller's research, mob-connected.
  • Maybe Ever After: In need of a PR rep after the gory climax, Henry hits on the idea of hiring Nicole back to her old job. He thinks that if he can show her how he's changed, they might get back together. The last line of the novel has him calling her number.
  • Must State If You're a Cop: Lucy (while still "Robin") asks Pierce if he's a cop before inviting him up to her apartment.
  • Nanomachines: What Henry Pierce is trying to make with "molecular computing", using individual molecules to make itty-bitty computers the size of a postage stamp, or even smaller; one suggestion injecting micro-computers into a diabetic's blood stream to regulate blood-sugar levels. (In Real Life molecular computers still haven't taken off. Maybe Henry still managed to get rich some other way.)
  • Night-Vision Goggles: What the heat resonance goggles amount to, but calling them that might spoil their Chekhov's Gun potential.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Marina Executive "Towers" — a three-story apartment building.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Several situations qualify, but Pierce's personal assistant Monica finding him looking at lesbian dominatrix porn with a magnifying glass is clearly the most precise example.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: A tiny, but key example: at the climax, Pierce pretends not to know that Lilly is dead in order to get Zeller to incriminate himself further.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Six-Eight.
  • Plot Hole: It's revealed that Zeller put Pierce's new phone number on Lilly's website, and it's certainly possible that he is also responsible for it being in the records at Entrepreneurial Concepts Unlimited, but that doesn't explain how All American Mail had the number in their records. Also, Lucy claims that the only reason she has Pierce's number is because of her caller ID, which is fine and all, but Pierce has told her the story of how he got involved in this, so you think she'd mention the fact that his number isn't actually Lilly's old number.
  • Product Displacement: Connelly does absolutely everything but say Coca-Cola's name when describing Zeller's penetration test client: the job came out of Atlanta, the logo is red and white and "the most recognized corporate symbol in the world," there's an urban myth about its secret formula containing cocaine, and their biggest competitors are Pepsi and Dr Pepper (which he is even careful to punctuate correctly).
  • Product Placement: Wentz sure admires Pierce's BMW. Turns out to be plot-relevant as the key ring to Henry's BMW is part of the frame-up.
    • And of course, Domino's Pizza.
  • Properly Paranoid: Henry Pierce's defining characteristic, from unplugging his computer's dial-up connection to saving all of his emails to refusing to talk on tape about the case.
  • Punny Name: All American Mail.
  • Rewatch Bonus: After Pierce's interview with Renner, he gets in touch with "Robin" on the phone and she mentions having left him a voice mail, noting that she only had his number because of her caller ID. If his number was Lilly's old number, she'd have had it via other means as well. Leads to a Plot Hole, of course.
  • Secret Test of Character: Nicole accuses Pierce of using sex as one, after he has told her about the Frame-Up.
    This was a test, wasn't it? Some sort of perverted test. You knew if I fucked you, then everything downstairs was a lie.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spotting the Thread: Pierce's interview with Renner is an orgy of this trope, one after the other, with Pierce just barely talking his way out of it over and over.
    • Zeller knowing the door combination to the lab confirms for Pierce that he's the bad guy; shortly thereafter, Zeller recognizes that he's caught because Properly Paranoid Pierce has a computer connected to a phone line that he isn't actively using.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Pierce finds Lilly in a freezer.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Drop the porkpie hat, and it's not hard to see Harry Bosch in Robert Renner's role. Connelly has said that he does not normally plot out his books exactingly, so it could be (given their close release dates) that at some point in early development, Renner was Bosch, but then the developments of City of Bones took Bosch out of play for this story. It's also worth noting that Renner's involvement here is very similar in structure to Bosch's involvement in A Darkness More Than Night, where he's neutral to antagonistic for most of the story, then has a Big Damn Hero moment at the climax.
  • Title Drop: A few before it finally gets explained for the reader near the end of chapter 7: it's the pursuit of computing power so advanced it could fit the equivalent of a mainframe in the space of a dime.
  • The Voiceless: Six-Eight, unless he was The Speechless.
  • White-Collar Crime: What the Frame-Up boils down to: competing business interests want to squelch Proteus by buying it out from Pierce and then shelving it.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Pierce thinks he's the hero of a Damsel in Distress story, and doesn't even realize he's the victim of a Frame-Up until more than three-quarters of the way into the book.


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