Mooning Over Michael

Michael Connelly's new thriller is a rollercoaster ride you don't want to leave.

Michael Connelly is perhaps better known for his marvellous police procedural novels starring Harry Bosch, the conflicted LAPD detective who obeys the call of his conscience more often than the summons of his superior officers. And while the Bosch novels are easily some of the best crime novels to date - I'd consider them far superior to Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books - we've never actually seen Connelly write about a character on the other side of the law.

Well, the wait is over - in "Void Moon", Connelly gives us the story of Cassie Black, a Las Vegas casino-employee-turned-career-criminal, who breaks into the hotel rooms of Vegas high rollers and walks away with their valuables. Her mentor is Max, also a career criminal and her lover. Together, the two become notorious for their high-risk, technologically-sophisticated burglaries, until the day Max is caught in the act and takes a high dive from the penthouse of a Vegas casino named the Cleo. In the ensuing confusion, Cassie is arrested and serves six years in prison.

Fast forward six years. Cassie is out of jail, and has a job selling high-priced Porsches to rich Hollywood kids. Her life is normal - even boring - although scarred by the memory of that fateful night six years earlier. She asks her old pal Leo to set up another robbery for her.

But when she finds out that she's supposed to pull off a burglary in the very same casino that Max met his death - on the very same floor - she feels the first tremble of uncertainty. Couple that with Leo's pronouncement of a "void moon" - an astrological phenomenon which has the moon travelling between houses, and which signifies bad luck - on the night of the proposed crime, and the involvement of Jack Karch, a brilliant though psychotic Vegas "fixer" and Vincent Grimaldi, the casino's corrupt boss, and you have a situation that's rife with the possibilities for mischief.

And mischief is exactly what Connelly gives us - a roller-coaster ride of double- and triple-crosses, of brilliant deduction and frightening menace - in a novel that reads like it's OD'd on adrenaline. Connelly expertly paints Cassie's emotions as she struggles to do the right thing and protect those closest to her when threatened by the Vegas goons. His pacing is masterful - the novel never falters, be it in the opening chapters that lay the scene for all that follows, or in the surprising final act. The symbolic introduction of the void moon at different points during the story adds a fresh and unusual element to this tale of a career criminal trying to get back on the straight and narrow, and the manner in which all loose ends are tied up is very satisfying, both for Cassie and the reader.

Suspenseful, exciting and full of emotion, "Void Moon" is a novel that truly does justice to the genre. Don't miss it!

This article was first published on03 Jul 2000.