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Literature / Two Kinds of Truth

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Two Kinds of Truth is a 2017 novel by Michael Connelly, featuring his regular protagonist, Harry Bosch. It is the 20th novel in the Harry Bosch series.

At age 67, Harry Bosch is still working as a part-time investigator for the tiny little police department in San Fernando, California. He is looking over a fifteen-year-old cold case, the disappearance of young mother Esme Tavares, when he receives a visit from his old LAPD partner Lucia Soto and deputy DA Alex Kennedy. They inform Harry that the DA's office has re-opened an old murder case, the Preston Borders investigation.

Back in 1988, Harry helped put away Borders for murder. The only problem is that a recent forensic test has revealed DNA on the victim's clothing that matches another man, serial rapist Lucas Olmer, who is now dead. Bosch faces the prospect of professional humiliation and, worse, vulnerability to a lawsuit if he can't prove that Borders really is guilty. He winds up hiring his half-brother Mickey Haller to defend him in court.

Meanwhile, Harry gets called out to a double murder at a San Fernando pharmacy. Jose Esquivela Senior and Junior, father-and-son pharmacists, were both shot dead at their place of business. Bosch's investigation leads to a criminal conspiracy involving "pill mills" that process fake prescriptions for opioids, and the organized crime rings that make millions selling the pills to addicts. Bosch must go on a dangerous undercover mission to find the truth while at the same time clearing his name in the Preston Borders affair.

This novel was adapted for the fifth season of the TV series Bosch.

Tropes present in this book:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Agent Hovan describes the mysterious drug lord Santos as "the Howard Hughes of hillbilly heroin."
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: It's stated that "More inmates died of suicide than the needle on death row in California".
  • The Bus Came Back: Jerry Edgar, Bosch's partner for the first several novels in the series, makes his first appearance in a Connelly novel since The Overlook in 2007. Edgar has come back into law enforcement and now works for the Medical Board of California, helping Bosch learn about the illegal trafficking of prescription opiods.
  • Calling Out for Not Calling: Madeline flips out when her dad goes a weekend without answering her calls. She was afraid that he'd done something to himself over the looming threat of the Borders case, while in fact Harry was on an extremely dangerous undercover mission.
  • Chekhov's Gun: No points for guessing that both the modified revolver given to him by the DEA and the Sword Cane inadvertently supplied to him by Cisco wind up figuring into Harry's undercover mission.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Bosch watches security footage of a jittery Jose Esquivela Sr. go out for a smoke after a scary confrontation with Russian mobsters.
  • Continuity Porn: All of Connelly's novels are in the same universe, and every single one after the first one has Continuity Nods to novels that came before, but even for Connelly, this one has a lot.
    • Jose Esquivela Jr. took a gunshot wound to the rectum. Harry reflects that he'd seen that before "in prior cases." This is a reference to Angels Flight and Lost Light, both of which featured the killer shooting his victim in the rectum as a means of delivering a very personal message.
    • Additionally, Harry's reminiscing about his old partner Frankie Sheehan may seem odd at first, but it is actually foreshadowing the importance of role of the evidence box in cracking the case: an evidence box figures significantly into the climax of Angels Flight, the book Frankie dies in.
    • Bosch remembers that the last time he heard from Jerry Edgar was when he received Edgar's condolences for the death of Bosch's ex-wife. That happened in 9 Dragons.
    • Vibiana Veracruz, whom Harry Bosch made very rich with the investigation that forms the plot of The Wrong Side of Goodbye, sends Harry some expensive bourbon.
    • Harry remembers Edgar telling him many years ago at an autopsy that all odors are particulate. That was a scene in City Of Bones.
    • Harry ponders how he and his supervisor Trevino got off on the wrong foot, but then smoothed things out after a case that involved the capture of a serial rapist. That's the previous Bosch novel, The Wrong Side of Goodbye.
    • Bosch remembers seeing a helicopter hit a windmill. That was the climax to The Black Box.
    • Who was Preston Borders' lawyer at trial? Irascible old David "Legal" Siegel, now retired, previously seen in the Mickey Haller novel The Gods of Guilt as Haller's friend and sort-of mentor. Also, Judge Houghton, the judge who presides over the habeas hearing for Borders, was the judge at the Storey murder trial in A Darkness More Than Night and the LaCosse murder trial in The Gods of Guilt.
    • Haller mentions having shifted into foreclosure defense during the mortgage crisis and having hired Jennifer Aronson back then. It happened in The Fifth Witness.
    • The cane Cisco gives Harry as part of his disguise was the same cane Cisco was using in The Crossing, the one with flames painted on it. In this book it's revealed to be a Sword Cane.
  • Cowboy Cop: Possibly the most hilariously downplayed example in the entire Bosch series: Harry uses his SFPD-issued blue light to get through traffic even though he is not within the town limits of San Fernando at the time.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Part of the plan to get Preston Borders out of prison consists on framing the now-deceased rapist Lucas Olmer for Borders' crime and accusing the now-deceased lawyer who represented Borders of making up the lie told during the original trial because no jury back then would believe a cop would forge evidence. Harry is given an opportunity to dodge the frame up charges by accusing Frankie Sheehan but he refuses. Borders' original lawyer turns out to be alive.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Bosch completely misses something that Cisco notices at a glance in the evidence box video that winds up unraveling the entire frame-up plot.
  • Faking the Dead: It turns out that Mickey Haller's elderly mentor David "Legal" Siegel had his own obituary published several years ago to discourage vengeful ex-clients from looking for him.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The time a death row convict is forced to wait for their execution is deemed worse than the execution itself.
  • For Want of a Nail: The air traffic controller's life could be an Alternate Universe version of Harry's own life: Vietnam, then a career doing important work in public service, a 10-Minute Retirement followed by a return to the career, right down to not speaking Spanish well. The big difference, possibly, might be Harry's loss of his mother that led him to his Mission.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Cisco, Mickey Haller's investigator, reveals to Harry that he got hooked on opiates as well. Cisco had some of his motorcycle buddies lock him in a sealed room for thirty days, after which he was clean. Later Harry and Cisco do this for a woman Harry rescued from the mob.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Played with: Harry gets more information out of the Ivan and Igor than they get out of him, though to be fair, they weren't really planning on interrogating him so much as just tossing him out.
  • Honor Before Reason: When Jose Esquivel Jr. found out that his father was running a "pill mill" operation in cahoots with The Mafiya, Jose Jr. went to the police. This got both of the Esquivels brutally murdered just a few days later.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Terence Spencer tries to avoid a subpoena by telling the process server he doesn't know a "Terry Spencer" but she points out she only called him "Mr. Spencer".
  • The Infiltration: For the first time ever, Harry Bosch goes undercover. He makes himself out to be a homeless opioid addict, in order to get the goods on the Russian pill smugglers who killed the Esquivelas.
  • Irony: Lampshaded by Jerry Edgar: the illegal activity Jose Esquivela, Sr., participated in is probably where the money came from to put Jose Esquivela, Jr., through pharmacy school.
  • The Mafiya: The Esquivelas were killed because of the father's involvement with "a Russian-Armenian syndicate." Esquivela Sr. was filling bogus prescriptions for pills that the Russian mobsters then sold.
  • My Greatest Failure: Subverted hard by Siegel. He points out to Bosch that Borders was his only client in forty-nine years to end up on death row, then adds:
    "And I never felt bad about it. He was where he was supposed to be."
  • "Nighthawks" Shot: Mickey Haller says Harry is "like the guy sitting by himself in that Hopper painting." Harry, who has often identified with the loner in Nighthawks, is startled.
  • Poor Communication Kills: It almost did. Harry didn't tell Mickey that he was going on an undercover mission, so Mickey chooses that weekend to plant a story about the Borders case in the newspaper, one that has Harry's picture. The bad guys see it and decide to kill Harry, but he kills them instead.
  • Product Placement: Harry doesn't have a CD player, he has a Bose player.
  • Real Person Cameo: Dan Daly, a Real Life lawyer who often gets thanked at the end of Connelly books, is said to be Terrence Spencer's new lawyer.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Near the end of the novel Esme Taveras shows up very much alive. She skipped out on a bad marriage fifteen years before, abandoning a baby daughter in the process, and has been living under an assumed name. Bosch and the rest of the San Fernando PD, who spent a lot of money and manpower looking for her, are very upset.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A minor and completely coincidental case, but the back story of murder victim Danielle includes the fact that as an up-and-coming actress in Hollywood, she had had to deal with sexual harassment from directors, producers, and the like. Connelly could not have known that the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the ensuing #metoo movement were going to break on October 5, three weeks or so before this book's publishing date.
  • Russian Roulette: The Russian mobster says, "You know I am Russian, yes?", then forces Harry to play a game of Russian roulette. Luckily for Harry the DEA modified his revolver so that it can't fire.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Harry essentially kidnaps a drug addict he barely knows and turns her over to a motorcycle gang to get her clean. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the novel, Bosch gets a call from Lucia Soto, saying that she is reopening the case of Daisy Clayton, a 15-year-old runaway murdered in 2009. Bosch, who helped Daisy's mother Elizabeth get off of heroin earlier in this book, says in the last paragraph that he wants in on the investigation. The Daisy Clayton case is part of the next Bosch novel, Dark Sacred Night.
  • Shot in the Ass: Jose Esquivela Jr. was shot in the rectum. This helps Harry deduce that the son was the one the killers were after.
  • Shout-Out: Mickey Haller likes to impersonate Matthew McConaughey, who "played him in a movie six years earlier" (The Lincoln Lawyer).
  • Sword Cane: Harry is delighted to find out that the cane Cisco gave him as part of a disguise has a hidden four-inch blade. Sure enough, the sword cane saves Harry's ass.
  • Take That!: From what's starting to become a pattern, Connelly (through Bosch) takes yet another swipe at President Donald Trump, specifically about the rumoured Russian collusion.
  • Tempting Fate: Invoked. Upon learning that Bosch spent his earthquake emergency money on another kind of emergency, Cisco believes a big earthquake will happen because of this.
  • Title Drop: As in every Bosch novel.
    "He knew there were two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one's life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and molded to serve whatever purpose was at hand."
  • Three Lines, Some Waiting: As with most of the later works in the Bosch series, the story consists of several unrelated cases. The re-opening of the Preston Borders investigation and the Esquivela murders are the two cases that form the bulk of the narrative, and they aren't related. Then at the end of the book Bosch gets a break and finds out the truth behind still a third case, the Esme Taveras disappearance that he was reviewing in the first chapter.
  • A True Story in My Universe: Connelly novel The Lincoln Lawyer, or at least the film version thereof, is In-Universe a true crime movie based on a Mickey Haller case.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Harry delivers one of these to Mickey Haller after finding out that it was Haller who leaked the story to the LA Times that blew Harry's cover and nearly got him killed. A pissed-off Haller shoots back that it won them the case, and he didn't know that Harry was undercover because Harry didn't tell him.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Harry could have easily divert blame to his fellow investigator Frankie Sheehan since the latter is no longer alive but he refuses.