Right after midnight, Bosch investigates an execution-style murder done on a Mulholland Drive overlook. The victim, one Stanley Kent, is found next to his car at the overlook, shot twice in the back of the head. Harry is surprised to be met at the crime scene by FBI Agent Rachel Walling, his old girlfriend until things between them ended badly at the end of previous Bosch novel Echo Park. Rachel has some unpleasant and scary news: Stanley Kent was a medical physicist whose job involved the handling of radioactive material used in cancer treatment. The sort of material that terrorists could use to make a "dirty bomb". And the heavy lead container that Kent used to transport that radioactive material has been stolen from the back of his car...
The novel was first serialized in The New York Times Magazine in 2006, with the somewhat revised and expanded book version following in 2007. It was adapted into one of the main plotlines of the sixth season of Bosch.
This novel contains examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The original New York Times novelization was expanded before being published as a novel.
- Blood from the Mouth: Cliff Maxwell has blood coming out of both sides of his mouth when Bosch and Walling corner him in the market.
- Bound and Gagged: Alicia Kent is found gagged and hogtied on her bed at home.
- Captain Morgan Pose: "The captain adopted a command pose, putting his foot up on the back end of the truck and resting his elbow on his knee." Subverted in that the person striking the pose, Capt. Don Hadley, is an idiot that Bosch has no respect for.
- Chekhov's Gunman: FBI Agent Maxwell appears in one chapter, where he has a physical altercation with Bosch at a crime scene, and is then forgotten about until he's revealed as the murderer.
- Continuity Nod:
- Multiple references to how the Echo Park case got weird and caused the disintegration of Harry and Rachel's relationship.
- Bosch tells his partner, Ferras, about how they broke a 30-year-old murder case by matching a palm print left on a bathroom wall by the suspect, who stopped to take a pee after murdering a woman. This is short story "Angle of Investigation", first published in 2005, later included in short story collection Angle of Investigation.
- Cowboy Cop: Bosch is always a Cowboy Cop, but maybe never more than in this book. He lies to the FBI, hides a witness from the FBI, assaults and handcuffs an FBI agent, and skips many, many chain-of-command layers by catching the Chief of Police himself in a doughnut shop and making a direct appeal for help in a case.
- Detective Mole: One of the FBI agents chasing supposed terrorists is actually the bad guy.
- Donut Mess with a Cop: What is the chief's favorite breakfast place, the spot where Harry Bosch catches him in order to ask for help? A donut shop, of course.
- Dirty Bomb: Bosch investigates the murder of a man who handles radioactive material meant for medical use. When Harry and his partner find out that the man just withdrew a bunch of radioactive material at the behest of terrorists who kidnapped his wife, the FBI takes charge and it becomes a counterterrorism investigation of a "dirty bomb" plot.
- Dirty Cop: An FBI agent is the murderer.
- Driven to Suicide: Maxwell kills himself rather than be taken alive.
- Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: When Bosch is chucked into an FBI interview room and locked in, he flips the bird at the hidden camera and then sits down backwards in the chair, still enraged.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The Overlook takes place over only twelve hours, as a call out to a murder scene leads to Bosch getting mixed up in a terrorism investigation involving stolen radioactive material.
- Flashback: Right before Don Hadley's disastrous raid on Samir's house, Bosch has a flashback to Vietnam and a tunnel raid where an idiot officer got all three of Bosch's buddies killed.
- I Lied: Harry says this after admitting that he gave the wrong hiding place for his witness, the drifter. He lied to see if Rachel would give him the name he wanted, and she didn't.
- No Name Given: Per tradition in Harry Bosch novels, the chief of the LAPD is not named, even in this book when Harry talks to him directly. (This tradition was finally broken in The Black Box when the chief gets a name, mainly because in that novel he's an antagonist.)
- Oddball in the Series: Between the brevity of the novel even after the expansion, the 12-hour time span of the story, and the nonstop plot as opposed to the usual character development, this one plays more like a lost season of 24 than a Michael Connelly novel.
- Old Cop, Young Cop: Bosch was partnered up with young Ignacio Ferras because Bosch, well into his fifties, is supposed to mentor a rookie homicide detective half Harry's age.
- Red Herring: The terrorism investigation. The murder is carefully staged to give the impression that it's part of a terrorist plot when it's really a case of Murder the Hypotenuse.
- Secret Test of Character: Rachel Walling fails it. She promises to give up the name that Alicia Kent remembered if Harry will reveal where he hid his witness. Harry gives the wrong hiding place, followed by Rachel refusing to reveal the name. As she's dialing her phone to tell her bosses Harry says "I Lied."
- Sequel Hook: Harry's exposure to radioactive material starts off seeming like this, then gets averted for twelve years until The Night Fire.
- Shout-Out: As Don Hadley's anti-terrorism unit gets geared up to raid Ramin Samir's house, an apprehensive Bosch mutters "Charlie don't surf." His young partner Ferras doesn't get it.