Bosch is still working in the Open-Unsolved unit of the LAPD, still with partner Kizmin Rider. Among the cold cases Bosch looks at is the 1993 murder of Marie Gesto. Gesto disappeared without a trace in 1993, the only evidence being her car found in an unused apartment garage, and the case has haunted Harry Bosch ever since.
Bosch had zeroed in on Anthony Garland, the son of a wealthy oil magnate, as a suspect, but they never found any evidence other than the fact that Garland's ex-girlfriend once lived in the apartment where Gesto's car was found. Out of nowhere, however, Bosch gets a confession from another suspect. Raynard Waits, a window washer who was found with two women chopped into pieces in the back of his truck, confesses that he is a serial killer and offers to give police the locations of nine more bodies—including Marie Gesto. Bosch has his reservations but the depth of Waits's knowledge indicates that he must be the murderer. However, as always in a Harry Bosch novel, things are not as they seem.
Plot elements from this novel were used in the first season of the Amazon series Bosch.
Tropes present in this work:
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Bosch wants the juvenile offender file for Robert Foxworth, but juvie records are sealed, and he can't get them without a court order. What to do? Get Rachel Walling to come stomping into the juvenile records office, flashing her FBI badge, loudly announcing that she is from the "Tactical Intelligence" unit and she needs to see the file right now to prevent "loss of life". It works.
- The Bus Came Back: FBI agent Rachel Walling, first seen in The Poet and briefly Harry Bosch's girlfriend in The Narrows, returns when Harry asks her for help in profiling Waits.
- Continuity Nod:
- When Raynard Waits was charged with being a Peeping Tom years ago, he hired Mickey Haller as his lawyer.
- A lawyer named Franks, seen briefly as Anthony Garland's lawyer in a police interview, is said to be an associate of Cecil Dobbs. Cecil Dobbs was the Roulet family attorney in The Lincoln Lawyer.
- Newspaper reporter Keisha Russell, first seen in The Last Coyote, makes another of her periodic appearances; Harry Bosch gets Irvin Irving's phone number from her.
- Bosch thinks about how a shrink once told him that he was doomed to solve his mother's murder over and over again. That happened in The Last Coyote.
- Cowboy Cop: Harry Bosch as usual. When he gives Rachel Walling the Waits file to look at without telling Rider, she says he's doing "the cowboy thing" again. Later Harry goes on some more serious Cowboy Cop antics, going into Waits's lair without waiting for backup despite Rachel telling him to do just that.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Harry Bosch has one of these moments when the detective on an apparently related case to one of his own is acting like a condescending Jerkass.Harry: Olivas, let's get something clear before we go anywhere. You call me 'Hotshot' again and I'm going to shove the file up your ass without taking it out of my briefcase.
- Deer in the Headlights: When Kiz Rider first comes out of the anesthetics after surgery, she sobs to Bosch that Waits got away because she froze up. She had a gun and could have pulled the trigger but did not. She tells Bosch that she shouldn't be a cop. Later novels reveal that Kiz doesn't quit the LAPD but she does quit investigative field work, instead going back on the command track and working for the chief of police.
- Dirty Cop: Bosch's supervisor Abel Pratt is involved in covering up the Gesto murder, which gets a couple of cops killed.
- Distant Prologue: Opens with Harry finding Marie Gesto's car in 1993, then skips forward 13 years to the main story.
- Dodgy Toupee: Early in the book Harry comments on Maury Swann's impressive head of hair. But when he finds Swann in a pool having a showdown with Pratt, a toupee has slipped off the top of Swann's head.
- Evil Counterpart: Raynard Waits aka Robert Foxworth to Harry Bosch. Both were children of prostitutes who met tragic ends, both never knew their fathers, both were wards of the state that spent time in youth halls and foster homes. In fact, they both stayed in the same youth hall, McLaren. Rachel Walling diagnoses that Waits is compelled to kill his mother over and over again, while Harry Bosch was once told he's compelled to solve his mother's murder over and over again.
- 555: Averted. Starting with this novel Harry gives out as his cell number a real number, 323-244-5631. Dial it and you get Harry Bosch's voice mail.
- Foreshadowing: Abel Pratt tells a humorous story about Maury Swann which, besides being funny, establishes that Pratt and Swann go way back. Pratt is also said to be a traditionalist who still types out reports on an old LAPD manual typewriter—this allows him to make a fake entry in the old Gesto murder book.
- Human Shield: An accidental one. But when Waits shoves Olivas's body off the embankment it falls right onto Harry Bosch and knocks him down. Olivas's corpse then takes two more bullets before Waits runs off.
- Law of Conservation of Detail: Not hard to guess that something will go wrong when Waits leads everyone on a field trip to Marie Gesto's body, especially when it's described in minute detail and Part II of the book is called "The Field Trip".
- No Name Given: For the chief of police, as usual in Harry Bosch novels.
- The Place: Like prior Connelly novel Angels Flight and later novel The Overlook, named after a well-known Los Angeles landmark.
- Real Person Cameo: One of a few Bosch novels in which Rick Jackson and Tim Marcia, Real Life LAPD cops that help Michael Connelly with his research, appear as minor characters.
- Retirony: Pratt, Bosch's supervisor, has three weeks before retirement, as is mentioned every time his name comes up. And it's all a Red Herring, as he's not a victim, he's complicit in the concealment of one, which leads to three cops getting shot, two fatally. Harry is more than a little pissed when he finds out, especially since Pratt's machinations led him to accuse other people.
- Serial Killer: Raynard Waits is a particularly deranged one.
- That Man Is Dead: Raynard Waits doesn't explicitly say so, but he seems to feel this way about his true identity as Robert Foxworth. He says "I'm not Robert Foxworth" and refers to his old life in the third person, using "he" to describe how Foxworth committed his first murder.
- Title Drop Chapter: The last chapter, in which Bosch sets up the climactic sting in the park, is called "Echo Park".
- What the Hell, Hero?: Rachel gives a scathing one to Bosch at the end of the novel, after revealing that she figured out that he basically allowed the bloody shootout to happen.