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Literature / The Concrete Blonde

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The Concrete Blonde is a 1994 detective novel by Michael Connelly, the third to feature LAPD detective Harry Bosch.

Bosch is sued by the widow of the Dollmaker, a suspected serial killer he shot during a tense standoff some years earlier. Bosch, acting on a tip from a prostitute, entered the Dollmaker's apartment, and shot him after the Dollmaker reached for something under his pillow, which turned out to be a toupee.

The suspect Harry Bosch killed was identified as a man named Norman Church. Makeup from the Dollmaker's victims was found in Church's bathroom, seemingly clinching the case. But Church's widow is suing, and powerhouse attorney Honey Chandler is charging that Bosch shot an innocent man and the LAPD framed him after the fact. Harry is sure that he did in fact get the right man—until a note purportedly from the Dollmaker is delivered to him. The note leads to the discovery of a body, and a crime which matches the Dollmaker's modus operandi, causing Harry to wonder if he really did shoot an innocent man.


Plot elements from this novel were used in the first season of the Amazon series Bosch.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho: The climax has Bosch alone at gunpoint with Bremmer. Bosch has a good reason for this, though: he didn't want to tell anybody about his new suspect, because he'd been wrong twice before with Mora and Locke.
  • Arc Words: This novel is the first to refer to Bosch as being on a "mission," which would quickly come to define his character, ultimately being filled out to the characterization of "man on a mission" in A Darkness More Than Night.
  • Blood from the Mouth: When Bosch sees this, he knows he hit Norman Church in the lungs and that Church is a goner.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • It's established in the first chapter that Bremmer the reporter wrote a book on the Dollmaker case. He's the copycat.
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    • Bremmer makes a point of telling Bosch that Edgar wasn't his source about the note and the discovery of the Concrete Blonde. He even says "You'd never guess who it was." The answer is that he was his own source because he is the murderer.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Bosch finds himself needing a cigarette after Lt. Pounds tells him that a note, purportedly from the Dollmaker, led to a body.
  • Continuity Nod: Mostly to The Black Echo.
    • Bosch's lover runs her hand over the bullet scar on his shoulder, which he acquired during the events of The Black Echo.
    • When looking at rows of porn videos trying to find a missing person, Bosch remembers how he once read every name on the Vietnam War memorial for a case.
    • Later, when he's being cross-examined by Honey Chandler, he mentions killing someone during "a murder and robbery investigation with the FBI", another reference to that book.
    • Honey Chandler asks Irving about Lewis and Clarke, the Internal Affairs cops who were after Harry Bosch, and Irving says they were "killed in the line of duty". They're killed during the big shootout that is the climax of The Black Echo.
    • Bosch is still dating Sylvia Moore, widow of Cal Moore, whose mysterious death Bosch was investigating in The Black Ice.
  • Cool Old Guy: Dr. Locke, despite having a number of suspicious or pushy moments, generally comes across as this, especially on the witness stand.
  • Courtroom Episode: The Concrete Blonde tells the story of when Harry is sued over the Dollmaker case, in which he shot a serial killer who he believed was reaching for a weapon. As the case begins another body turns up.
  • Cowboy Cop: Honey Chandler accuses Bosch of "cowboying" when he killed Church. Regular Cowboy Cop Bosch is actually less cowboy-ish in this novel than in most, though.
  • Distant Prologue: The novel starts out with a prologue that recounts Bosch's fatal encounter with the Dollmaker, Norman Church, before a Time Skip four years to the present where Bosch is being sued for that shooting.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop:
    "Edgar was parked in front of a Winchell's Donuts store, apparently not realizing the comic implications of this."
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Concrete Blonde is both a murder victim found in concrete and the statue of Justice.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Despite being made callous to violence, Bosch is disturbed at the sight of the nude, tortured body of Honey Chandler.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Before the opening statements of Harry Bosch's trial, the judge told the jurors what the attorneys say during those statements wasn't necessarily true since they're lawyers. The judge's accent even makes it sound like "lie-yers".
  • Foreshadowing: There are multiple references to how two of the Dollmaker's victims don't quite fit the pattern: two were porn stars while the others were just hookers, while makeup was found for nine of the eleven victims. Eventually Bosch figures out that two of the eleven victims attributed to the Dollmaker were actually killed by someone else.
  • Genre Savvy: After being caught by Bosch, when they're alone, and being handcuffed, the killer quickly chafes his wrists abasing the handcuffs so that if Bosch subjects him to a Vigilante Execution, there'll be evidence that he was a helpless prisoner.
  • Glad You Thought of It: Invoked. When Bosch fails to convince Belk to ask for a continuance, he assumes he should've tried to make Belk think it's Belk's idea.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Bosch goes out for a smoke break during the trial and meets none other than Honey Chandler, the woman who's trying to ruin him, also out for a smoke break. They have some chats from time to time throughout the book.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: "Now, who else have you told this crazy story to?" So says Bremmer after Bosch catches him out about the postmark on the envelope.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Honey Chandler, the sexy lawyer who's trying to ruin Harry Bosch's career. Bosch notes that his fellow LAPD cops attribute her success to her sexiness, because they can't admit she's an excellent lawyer.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Honey Chandler accuses Harry Bosch of this and quotes Friedrich Nietzsche.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: The LAPD has come to suspect that Locke the psychologist is the killer. At a crime scene, Edgar says "Too bad Locke's the fucking suspect. It'd be nice to ask him what all this means." The next line is a patrolman alerting Bosch that Locke has come to the crime scene.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: How Bosch gets Bremmer to confess. He arranges for Bremmer to lift his gun, but what Bremmer doesn't know is that the gun isn't loaded. Thinking he can kill Bosch is what leads Bremmer to admit he's the killer.
  • Jack the Ripoff: Bosch is puzzled when The Dollmaker, a serial killer that Bosch shot, seems to have become active again. He wonders if he got the wrong man. It turns out this new serial killer is a copycat.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: A plot point, as the victims of the Dollmaker were strangled with purse straps tied on the right side.
  • Literal Metaphor: "Say Church's wife knows where he buried bodies, literally," speculates Harvey Pounds.
  • No-Tell Motel: The Hollywood Star, the hotel where prostitute Georgia Stern escaped from the Dollmaker in the backstory, advertised hourly rates.
  • Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: The POV comments more than once on how Belk, Bosch's fat attorney, sweats a lot in court. Once the POV notes Belk's habit to "break out in flop sweat" every time the judge looks at him.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: Bosch discovers the identity of the Concrete Blonde by finding her picture on a horror-themed porn DVD titled Tail from the Crypt.
  • Perfumigation: In the Distant Prologue, the overpowering smell of the hooker's perfume forces Bosch to roll the window down.
  • Porn Names: An anonymous caller to the LAPD identifies the Concrete Blonde as a porn actress named "Maggie" and says the rest of her name was "something Latin". Turns out that she was a porn actress named "Maggie Cum Loudly".
  • Real Person Cameo: Real-life lawyer Dan Daly sits with Norman Church's wife in court when Honey Chandler doesn't show up.
  • Serial Killer: The Dollmaker, named for the way he decorated his victims' bodies after he killed them.
  • Shout-Out: The titular victim is identified with help from her Yosemite Sam tattoo.
  • Title Drop: Standard for Connelly. Possibly even an artifact title drop: the phrase "the black heart," used frequently in the second half of the book, may be a clue that originally, this book was going to have a different title, one that followed the pattern established by The Black Echo and The Black Ice.
  • Widow's Weeds: Deborah Church is dressed up in “the traditional black dress of a widow” for her testimony, four years after her husband was killed. Bosch is not impressed.
  • Worthy Opponent: This is how Bosch feels about Honey Chandler, the attorney that is trying to ruin him.
    "A part of himself liked her. She was wrong about him, but somehow he liked her. Maybe it was her tenacity, because her anger — though misdirected — was so pure."
  • Yes-Man: A little bit of comic relief in Lt. Hans Rollenberger, who is brought into the Follower investigation after Irving forms a task force. He keeps saying "Good idea, chief!" whenever Irving says anything, and he keeps trying to anticipate what Irving is going to say and getting it wrong.
  • You Just Told Me: Bosch manages to do this twice in quick succession to get Honey Chandler to reveal that 1) she got a note from the killer about the Concrete Blonde, and 2) the note is in her home (as opposed to her office).
  • Your Mom: As soon as the plaster cast of the Concrete Blonde is shown on the news with a request for tips, Edgar is inundated on the phone with people calling in to say "Your mom!"