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Literature / The Black Ice

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The Black Ice is a 1993 detective novel by Michael Connelly, the second to feature LAPD detective Harry Bosch.

Bosch investigates the death, apparently by suicide, of narcotics officer Calexico Moore. At first it appears to be an open-and-shut case, with Cal Moore found dead in a fleabag hotel, and a match to his fingerprints. But Harry Bosch is suspicious, and he grows more suspicious when he finds out that Moore was the reporting officer on a murder in an alley the day before he disappeared. He grows still more suspicious when the unidentified Mexican corpse in the alley is traced to Mexicali, Mexico—where Cal Moore grew up. Eventually Bosch stumbles into a major conspiracy involving murder and drug-smuggling of the cocaine-heroin mixture called "black ice".


This novel contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Lucius Porter, a broken-down old homicide cop with a bulbous red alcoholic's nose, routinely drunk during the day. Porter's retirement from the LAPD the day after Cal Moore's suicide raises Bosch's suspicions, especially when Bosch discovers that Moore was the reporting officer on the anonymous Mexican murder victim that Porter was investigating.
  • ...And That Would Be Wrong: Bosch joins up with the DEA and the Mexican federales for a raid on Zorillo's compound in the Mexican town of Mexicali, with one of the goals being to take Zorillo into custody for a string of murders committed in Los Angeles (including two police officers). However, even though the Mexican government is cooperating with the raid itself, they historically do not extradite their citizens to the United States. DEA Agent Ramos has a plan to bring Zorillo to the American justice system anyway. He tells Bosch that Zorillo is going to resist arrest during the raid and suffer an injury that won't be serious but will look bad enough to need medical attention. They will then use one of the helicopters to evacuate him to a hospital for treatment. The pilot, however, will mistake the lights at a hospital on the American side of the border for the hospital on the Mexican side, at which point, the American officials can arrest him and bring him to American courts. Ramos remarks that they might have to put a letter of reprimand in the pilot's personnel file for that. Subverted when Zorillo escapes the raid anyway.
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  • Batman Gambit: Moore's plan was this in spades. He has been fronting for a Mexican drug lord named Humberto Zorillo, who was his half-brother from the Mexicali barrio. He wants to take over the operation and make a clean break from the LAPD. He writes an anonymous letter to Internal Affairs that implicates him in his own scheme, but doesn't have enough details to bring him up on charges right away. He then arranges for Zorillo to meet him in LA, and kills Zorillo in a way that he can arrange the scene to look like his own suicide. He kills Zorillo in a sleazy motel room that he had rented for a month and paid cash up front, ensuring that the body won't be discovered immediately. Knowing that Irving, who is the commander of IAD, will want to immediately identify the body so he can close the investigation of Moore's activites and protect the department's reputation, Moore switches the fingerprint card in his personnel file with one that has Zorillo's prints on it, since he has seen Irving use the p-file in that way before. And just in case the suicide angle doesn't play, he leaves behind a file for Bosch that contains information suggesting a motive for Moore's murder to cover up two other murders related to a drug-smuggling and distribution ring. The only reason it didn't work is because Bosch was the investigating officer of those two other murders, and he doesn't believe in coincidences like that.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Bosch goes to a bullfight in Mexico in an effort to get a look at Zorillo, the Mexicali drug lord.
  • Bookends: The beginning of the book has Bosch responding to the apparent suicide of Cal Moore via a double shotgun blast to the face. The end of the book has Bosch killing Cal Moore via a double shotgun blast to the face.
  • The Cartel: Humberto Zorillo is head of a Mexican drug-smuggling operation sending black ice into the United States. Bosch eventually discovers that both the Jimmy Kapps drug mule murder and the murder of the Mexican in the alleyway tie in to Zorillo's operation and Cal Moore's death.
  • Comforting the Widow: Bosch realizes he's attracted to Sylvia Moore while at her house telling her about her husband's death. Then a couple of days later they have sex in Cal Moore's apartment! Less egregious than it sounds since the Moores were already separated and had filed for divorce.
  • Continuity Nod: Every single Connelly novel takes place in the same universe and all of them, starting with this one, have Continuity Nods to prior novels.
    • One of the three Christmas cards Bosch gets is from the prison at Tehachapi. The book doesn't name the sender but it's Eleanor Wish, one of the two Detective Mole characters from previous Connelly novel, The Black Echo.
    • Teresa Corazon mentions Malathion-spraying helicopters and Harry says they make him dream of Vietnam. This references Harry's introductory scene in The Black Echo.
    • An early chapter establishes that Harry had spent some time in Mexico recovering from the gunshot wound he received in The Black Echo.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: Ramos' plan to get Zorillo into American jurisdiction following the raid on the compound. After Zorillo conveniently suffers an injury while resisting arrest, he will be put on a chopper for evacuation to the hospital. The pilot will mix up the lights at a hospital on the American side of the border for those at the Mexican hospital, Zorillo will be arrested on American soil, and they might have to put a letter of reprimand in the pilot's file.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Averted when Teresa Corazon discovers signs of a premortem concussion on a fragment of frontal lobe during the autopsy and immediately becomes skeptical of a suicide, since that type of injury indicates being struck in the back of the head, not shot in the face. Irving presses for a declaration of suicide anyway, since this will help keep any corrupt activities of Moore's from becoming public news and embarrassing the department. Not quite Defied, however, because although Corazon refuses to declare it a suicide, Irving does convince her not to declare it a homicide. Thus, a death by double-barrel-shotgun-to-the-face is officially ruled "Inconclusive."
  • Cowboy Cop: Harry Bosch as always, this time insisting on investigating a case he was told to leave alone, and then ignoring frantic messages from the LAPD to return from Mexico after Porter is murdered. Irving gets irritated with Bosch at one point and asks why he can't just "go along to get along."
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Bosch hears about the Calexico Moore suicide on Christmas Day, which has little significance to the plot other than underlining how solitary Harry is on the holiday.
  • Dirty Cop: An LAPD cop is a heroin kingpin, who faked his own death to boot.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Black Ice is a kind of heroin, and also ice on a road that symbolizes unseen danger.
  • Evil Counterpart: It eventually becomes clear that Cal Moore is Harry Bosch's Evil Counterpart. Both were illegitimate children who weren't recognized by their fathers, and both became LAPD cops. While Bosch eventually forgave his father, and became dedicated to justice, Cal Moore turned bitter and became a drug lord.
  • Faking the Dead: It turns out that Calexico Moore faked his own death.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Bosch does this when finding a sack of sugar in Cal Moore's apartment. Turns out it really was sugar.
  • 555: The number for information at the LAPD adult detention center is 555-7000.
  • Foreshadowing: Teresa Corazon asks Harry if he is like the coyote they hear, "alone out there in the dark world.... but you like it, don't you?" This comparison will play a larger thematic role in The Last Coyote.
  • Friends with Benefits: Bosch and medical examiner Teresa Corazon. Corazon cuts him off as she rises in LA politics.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Moore's narcotics squad was the "BANG squad", for Boulevard Anti-Narcotics Group. Bosch regards it as a "“slick, media-grabbing name.”
  • I Was Never Here: Bosch bribes the clerk at the De Anza Hotel to tell this to anyone who calls after finding out that Pounds and Irving are looking for him even before he checks in.
  • Internal Affairs: Always antagonistic to Cowboy Cop Harry Bosch. In this novel, Harry believes IAD is stonewalling the Moore investigation to avoid embarrassment to the LAPD.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Lampshaded.
    Bosch thought at the moment that the one thing that the movies and TV shows didn't get wrong or over-exaggerate was the relationship of jealousy and distrust that existed between local and federal cops. One side always thought it was better, wiser, more qualified. Usually, the side that thought that was wrong.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight: Corvo the DEA guy tells Bosch a story in which Corvo was jumped by a Mexican Mook who slashed Corvo across the face with a knife before Corvo shot him to death. Bosch is not impressed.
    "Corvo had found a way to make killing a man who brought a knife to a gunfight sound heroic."
  • Never Suicide: The suicide was actually Faking the Dead.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Averted, as Bosch decides to keep his holster so he won't have to keep his gun in his pants. Played straight by the Mexican SJP detectives, all of whom keep their pistols in their waistbands.
  • Pink Mist: "Bosch felt a slight mist on his face that he also knew by smell was blood," after he delivered a shotgun blast to Cal Moore's face.
  • Posthumous Character: The late J. Michael Haller, Bosch's father, appears in flashback. Most of the novel explores the life of Calexico Moore, found dead in a hotel room in the opening scene. And the ending reveals that the real Posthumous Character is Zorillo the drug lord, as Moore killed him and assumed his identity.
  • Red Light District: Hollywood. Truth in Television. Bosch talks a lot about all the druggies and street hookers all over the place, and how the sad hotel where Cal Moore kills himself was already run-down thirty-odd years ago when Bosch was a boy living in Hollywood with his mother.
  • Streetwalker: Hollywood Boulevard is filled with them, even on Christmas; Bosch notes that one of them has a Santa hat on.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Bosch has an 18-year-old petty criminal drug pusher thrown into the adult lockup overnight, in an effort to get him to divulge information. The narco cop who assisted Bosch with the arrest then has the pusher placed in the "High Power" cell block with the violent felons instead of the jail's drug wing, without Bosch's knowledge. When the boy comes out he's showing the Stare. Bosch is so ashamed that he immediately cuts the kid loose.
    “He looked like he had aged ten years in the last ten hours. Now he had a distance in his eyes that reminded Bosch of men he had seen and known in Vietnam.”
  • Title Drop: "Black ice" is a mixture of cocaine, heroin, and PCP. It turns out to be crucial to the Moore case.
  • Treachery Cover Up: Irvin Irving and the LAPD successfully covers up the fact that Cal Moore killed some people and became a drug kingpin. He is said to have been killed in the line of duty.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: To spare the department embarrassment, Cal Moore is given a hero's funeral.


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