Tina Jordan
October 31, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Lowdown
”What if I hadn’t looked out my car window that night when I was 16?” Michael Connelly once asked. But he did look, and what he saw, driving home from his late-night job as a hotel dishwasher, would change everything: A man, running down the sidewalk, stopped to stuff something in the bushes, then disappeared into a nearby dive bar. Connelly, curious, decided to investigate — and found a gun. The incident kick-started a lifelong fascination with crime; he began devouring true-crime books, then novels, discovering Raymond Chandler while he was at the University of Florida. Soon he parlayed his interest into a job, working the crime beat at various newspapers in South Florida (he was even short-listed for the Pulitzer one year). Before long Connelly landed as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, and while he was there — soaking in the grungy precinct back rooms, floodlit homicide scenes, courtrooms, dingy squad cars, cop-frequented diners — he started writing fiction. His first novel, the cerebral, hard-boiled police procedural The Black Echo, came out in 1992 and introduced his most famous character, on-and-off-again LAPD detective Harry Bosch. Since then Connelly’s gone on to write 26 more novels — the majority starring Bosch — which have been translated into 39 languages and sold 58 million copies. The pleasures of a Connelly tome are many: complex, Easter-egg-strewn plots, terrific minor characters, L.A.’s gritty underbelly. These aren’t mysteries you’ll forget. They’ll stay with you, even haunt you.

Essential Connelly
If you’ve never read a Connelly novel — and you’re daunted by the idea of 27 of them — any of these would be a fine place to start.

The Black Echo (1992)
In Connelly’s spare, atmospheric first novel, LAPD detective Harry Bosch investigates the murder of a fellow Vietnam vet at the Mulholland Dam.

The Concrete Blonde (1994)
When a serial killer dubbed ”The Dollmaker” strikes L.A., Bosch gets the case and gets his man — or so he thinks, until more Dollmaker murders begin to appear.

Blood Work (1998)
After a friend had a heart transplant, Connelly chose to make it a plot point in this novel about a former FBI agent, Terry McCaleb, who’s looking into the death of an organ donor.

City of Bones (2002)
A dog scrabbling in the dirt of Laurel Canyon discovers a bone that turns out to be human, leading Bosch to a 20-year-old unsolved case and the murder of a missing child.

The Last Coyote (2003)
More PI than police procedural: Bosch, on enforced leave from the LAPD after an altercation with his lieutenant, decides to solve the long-ago murder of his mother, who was a prostitute.

The Narrows (2004)
Both Bosch and FBI agent Rachel Walling are working the case of a serial killer called ”The Poet,” back after a long hiatus. One of Connelly’s tensest, most nail-biting reads.

The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)
The novel that introduced the sleazy, slick-talking defense lawyer Mickey Haller — whose office is his black Lincoln Town Car — was Connelly’s first courtroom procedural.

The Scarecrow (2009)
L.A. Times crime reporter Jack McEvoy — about to be laid off — races to finish the story of a lifetime, about the bogus murder confession of a 16-year-old drug dealer.

Connelly Trivia

He starred on Castle as a poker player.
His career got a boost in 1994 when Bill Clinton was photographed with a copy of The Concrete Blonde.
The Overlook is dedicated to ”the librarian who gave me To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wild About Harry

While he’s experimented with various main characters, Connelly has returned 21 times to the jazz-loving, authority-loathing maverick Hieronymus ”Harry” Bosch, the Vietnam tunnel rat-turned-LAPD detective (portrayed by Titus Welliver, left, on the upcoming Amazon series Bosch). Connelly named his character for a 15th-century Dutch painter he became fascinated with in college. ”There is a ‘world gone mad’ feel to many of his works, including one called Hell — of which a print hangs on the wall over the computer where I write,” Connelly once wrote. In The Last Coyote, Bosch says, ”My name was just something [my mother] came up with. She thought L.A. was a lot like his paintings. All the paranoia, the fear.” There’s another artistic allusion to Harry’s name in The Black Ice, when Harry recalls his only meeting with his real father, J. Michael Haller, who asked him if he’d read any Hermann Hesse novels. ”The summer after he had talked to his father Bosch picked up the books by Hesse. He was curious about what the old man had meant. He found it in the second book he read. Harry Haller was the character in it. A disillusioned loner, a man of no real identity, Harry Haller was the steppenwolf.”

Police Lingo

RAT Radiological attack team
DNA Do not approach
BOLO Be on the lookout
RHD Robbery-homicide division
BAM By any means
CUBO Conduct unbecoming an officer
HITMAN Homicide information tracking management automated network
CRT Crime response team
SID Scientific investigation division

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