"The Last Coyote" is Michael Connelly's fourth book, was first published in 1995 and features Harry Bosch as its central character. Something of Bosch's background has been covered in the previous three books. Bosch's mother was a prostitute who was murdered when he was twelve - he spent his teenage years in and out of youth halls. He enlisted in the army and served in Viet-Nam, before returning home and joining the police force. Once a member of the LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide Division, Bosch currently works at the Hollywood Division's Homicide table. He's still a jazz-loving loner, seen by some as a maverick, with a taste for coffee, beer and cigarettes. There have been some changes in his life since the end of "The Concrete Blonde", though - his relationship with Sylvia Moore has finished and his house has been damaged in a recent earthquake. Despite the fact that it's been declared unfit for habitation, he's still unofficially living there.
As "The Last Coyote" opens, Bosch is in trouble with the department again. After his boss, the bureaucratic Harvey "98" Pounds, interfered with the questioning of a suspect, Bosch lost his temper and pushed Pounds head-first through an office window. As a result, he's been placed on involuntary stress leave and has to attend regular sessions with Dr Carmen Hinojos, a psychiatrist at Behaviorial Sciences Division. These sessions contribute to Bosch deciding to investigate the one case that really matters to him : his mother's murder. Although he's working on the case unofficially and has lost his badge - albeit temporarily - he still manages to pull the original case file. Opened in October 1961, it was investigated at the time by two detectives called Eno and McKittrick. Leaving aside the apparent lack of effort to solve the case, a few things seem odd to Harry. The mentions an interview with Johnny Fox - his mother's pimp, and therefore an obvious suspect. However, the file doesn't contain an interview summary. A passing reference to Arno Conklin also catches his eye. At the time, Conklin would have been one of the city's top prosecutors and subsequently became the city's DA. Although exactly what role he had is unclear, his involvement in the case seems curious. The only other person apparently interviewed was Meredith Roman - a 'colleague' and old friend of his mother's, who'd also worked for Johnny Fox. The starting point, Harry feels, is to track these people down - though cut off from the LAPD's resources, he has to be a little more creative than usual in how he achieves this. He starts by using a new contact at the LA Times, Keisha Russell, to gather some stories on Conklin and Fox. Based on what he's read, Harry adds Conklin's campaign manager, Gordon Mittel, to his list of suspects. For other police-related information, Harry isn't above 'borrowing' Harvey Pound's identity to acquire it. However, just because a case is over thirty years old doesn't mean the investigation will be safe - least of all when important people are involved.
As with Connelly's previous books, I found this to be a very enjoyable book - and it deals with the very case I had wondered about. It's probably better, though not strictly necessary, to read the books in order. The 'newcomer' won't feel left out, as this book covers enough of Bosch's past to tell the story without any gaps. However, reading the previous books and getting to know the 'full story' will add to the enjoyment of this instalment. The other books ("The Black Echo", "The Black Ice" and "The Concrete Blonde") are very enjoyable also - reading them will be anything other than a burden !