Michael Connelly is the bestselling author of over 36 novels that primarily take place in the Harry Bosch Universe, selling over 80 million copies around the world and being translated into 45 languages.
Although many of Connelly’s books are standalone, mystery crime thrillers that wrap up nicely at the end, it can be useful to read an author’s work (particularly if they predominantly feature one protagonist) from a chronological standpoint, while sometimes it can be more beneficial to start with the most popular, most well-received novel first and go from there.
If you prefer the latter method then this article is sure to come in handy.
So if you’re new to Michael Connelly books, or have already read a couple and want to know which book you should check out next, read on to discover the top 15 Michael Connelly books that are sure to thrill you!
The 18th book in the Harry Bosch series finds the titular hero retired from the LAPD but his half-brother – defense attorney, Mickey Haller – needs his help.
A woman has been murdered in her sleep and all the evidence is pointing towards Haller’s client, a reformed gang member who is now a family man.
But while it seems like an open and shut case, Mickey is sure his client is being set up.
Bosch is initially reluctant to work for the defense, as he feels it betrayals his 30-year history as a homicide detective. But Mickey is prepared to let the chips fall where they may.
If Harry proves that his client is guilty, then they are obligated to hand that evidence over to the prosecution.
Although it goes against his instincts, Bosch ultimately decides to take on the case as the prosecution’s case is too weak and he has to discover the truth. If Haller’s client is innocent, then who is guilty?
With his former LAPD partner Lucy Soto by his side, Harry begins investigating and he soon finds himself inside the police department where he realizes the murderer he’s been following has also been following him.
- Tells the story of two fan favorite characters.
- A fun, gripping read.
- The characters have believable motivations.
- Some readers found the story too short.
Two Kinds Of Truth is another installment in Connelly’s popular, long-running Harry Bosch series. It is the 20th book in the series, but the 30th in the wider Harry Bosch Universe.
Harry returns as a volunteer for the San Fernando Police Department where he is working cold cases.
Harry is called out to a local drugstore where a young pharmacist has been killed.
Bosch and the small detective squad look through the clues, which creates a trail to the dangerous, big business world of pill mills and prescription drug abuse.
Meanwhile, a case from Bosch’s past at the LAPD comes back to haunt him when a criminal Harry jailed long ago claims he was framed and he has the evidence to prove it.
To make matters worse, Bosch left the LAPD on bad terms, so it’s not like his former colleagues will have his back. It’s down to him alone to clear his name and outsmart the killer out for revenge.
In this installment, Bosch discovers there are two types of truth. The truth that liberates you, and the one that leaves you in the dark.
- Fascinating, interconnected plots.
- Full of twists and turns.
- Some readers found the book got off to a slow start.
In the third installment of the Harry Bosch series, Harry Bosch’s convictions are called into question when there is doubt about whether a serial killer he shot was actually guilty.
The serial killer is dubbed the ‘Dollmaker,’ stalking the streets of LA and leaving gruesome calling cards on the faces of his female victims.
When Bosch shoots a suspect, the city believes the Dollmaker’s reign of terror has come to an end, but then the suspect’s widow sues the LAPD – and Harry – for killing a supposedly innocent man.
Further doubt is cast on Harry’s actions when a corpse is discovered with the Dollmaker’s morbid signature.
Harry is on a quest again to track down the serial killer before they strike again. On his grisly journey, Harry will go from the rough edges of LA nightlife to inside his own dark heart.
- Straightforward writing that keeps the plot moving.
- Readers have praised the character development.
- Has a great twist.
- Some readers found there was more dialogue than action.
The Drop is Michael Connelly’s 15th Harry Bosch novel, which sees the titular detective be given three years before he retires from the police force. He’s desperate for new cases, and in a single morning, he gets two.
DNA from a rape and murder case in 1989 matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he a child killer or has there been a horrible mistake in the new Regional Crime Lab?
If the latter is the case, then this could have a massive effect on all the laboratory’s DNA cases that are currently in court.
Meanwhile, Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene and come up against internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving’s son fell from a window at the Château Marmont.
Did he jump or was he pushed? A longtime enemy of Bosch’s has ordered he takes care of the investigation.
While working on both cases, Bosch makes some terrifying discoveries that involve a killer operating in the city for years, and a political conspiracy.
- Fast-paced plot.
- There is great tension between Harry Bosch and the other characters in the novel.
- Keeps you guessing until the end.
- Some readers found that the ending dragged.
Returning to work after an involuntary leave of absence, Bosch is looking to sink his teeth back into casework again. But has he bitten off more than he can chew with this case?
The body of a Hollywood producer has been found in the trunk of a Rolls-Royce, and the signs are pointing towards ‘trunk music,’ i.e. a crime carried out by the mafia. But the organized crime unit of the LAPD doesn’t seem to think so.
When Harry discovers a trail of gambling debts to Vegas, things only get more complicated… and a lot more personal.
A rekindled romance with an old girlfriend broadens Harry’s perspective on the murder, and a shocking triangle of corruption and collusion is discovered.
Harry is suddenly pulled off the case and is under investigation, but that doesn’t stop him from looking for answers.
- Full of action and suspense.
- Some readers have praised the details authentic to LA.
- Satisfying conclusion.
- Readers have found the plotline of the book different from the TV show.
Taking a break from the stories of Harry Bosch, The Reversal tells the story of another beloved Connelly character – Mickey Haller – and this is in fact, the third Mickey Haller book.
However, there is a connection between Mickey and Harry, as their stories take place in the same universe and they are in fact half-brothers with the same father. But while Harry is a detective, Mickey is a defense attorney.
In this story, Mickey is brought in to prosecute in the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After serving 24 years in prison, new DNA evidence has been found that warrants convicted killer Jason Jessup a retrial.
Haller agrees to take on the case as long as he gets to choose the investigator. He, of course, turns to Harry Bosch.
Haller becomes convinced of Jessup’s guilt, and he and Bosch set off on a case that is rife with political – as well as personal – danger.
They’re up against Jessup who has been released on bail, his media-savvy defense attorney, and an eyewitness who is wary about testifying again.
- The immersive writing really puts you in the middle of the action.
- A well-written but simple read.
- Surprising and engaging.
- Some readers found the character development to be lacking.
The fourth of Michael Connelly’s adventures with Mickey Haller, The Fifth Witness sees our favorite defense attorney down on his luck.
He extends his business into foreclosure defense, only for one of his clients to be accused of killing the banker she blames for taking her home away from her.
Mickey puts all his efforts into trying to prove Lisa Trammel’s innocence, although the evidence and his own gut feeling are screaming that she is guilty.
But not long after he discovers that the victim had some shady dealings with the black market, Haller is also assaulted, and he thinks he might be getting somewhere.
Despite the danger and unpredictability, Haller prepares the best defense of his career in a trial that is full of surprises right up until the verdict.
- Readers have praised the character development in the novel.
- A fascinating, well-researched look into the court system.
- A no-frills legal thriller.
- Some readers found the case at the center of the novel to be boring.
The Brass Verdict is not only the second Mickey Haller book but also the fourteenth Harry Bosch book and the 18th in the Universe overall.
Things seem to be finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller, after two difficult years for Haller in the courtroom.
Haller takes on his biggest case yet when Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered and he has to defend a famous studio executive Walter Elliott who is accused of murdering his wife and her lover.
But as Haller prepares for the case, he discovers that Vincent’s killer may be coming for him next.
This is where Harry Bosch comes in. Determined to find Vincent’s killer, he is not above using Haller as bait. But as the stakes rise and things get more dangerous, Haller and Bosch realize their only choice is to join forces.
- Beautifully written.
- Connelly’s experience in crime journalism really shines through to make the story believable.
- Excellent character development and fascinating relationships.
- The ending is controversial.
The nineteenth Harry Bosch book sees him becoming California’s newest – and most exclusive – private investigator.
He has no office, doesn’t advertise, and is very selective about who he works for, but his experience of 30 years in the LAPD speaks for itself.
Soon, one of the biggest moguls in Southern California gets in touch. The reclusive billionaire is at the end of his life and is haunted by a regretful event in his past.
The great love of his life was a girl from Mexico he met as a young man, but not long after becoming pregnant she disappeared. Where did she go? Did she have the baby? And what became of mother and child?
Desperate to find out if he has an heir to his fortune, he hires Bosch to find out. With such a massive fortune at stake, Harry realizes that his mission isn’t just risky for himself but also for the person he’s searching for.
But as he starts to unravel the haunting story – and discovers uncanny links to his own history – Bosch soon becomes obsessed with finding the truth.
Meanwhile, Harry is also unable to retire from the police force totally, so he volunteers as an investigator for a small police department struggling with funding and finds himself tracking a serial rapist – one of the most dangerous and puzzling foes he has ever faced.
- Tackles tough subjects masterfully.
- The ‘flashback’ scenes are very powerful.
- The two plotlines are well-balanced.
- Some readers did find the plot predictable.
The fourth installment in the Harry Bosch series sees Harry being indefinitely suspended after attacking a commanding officer and awaiting a psychiatric evaluation.
Initially, he resists the LAPD shrink but finally comes to terms with the fact he’s been troubled by something for a long time.
In 1961, when he was twelve years old, Harry’s mother was brutally murdered and her killer was never brought to justice.
With all this spare time, Harry opens up the 30-year-old file on the case and is drawn into a past he has always shut out. It’s clear that the case was botched and it’s undeniable a cover-up has taken place.
Someone with power was able to make sure the killer of Harry’s mother never was served justice and Harry is determined to discover the truth.
As he follows the breadcrumbs of the case, his interest in the case prompts new murders and pushes Harry to the brink.
- Immersive from the very first page.
- Exciting twists and turns.
- A fast-paced plot that keeps your attention.
- You need to read Concrete Blonde first to understand what is going on.
The Late Show is the debut of the Renee Ballard series but still takes place in the Harry Bosch Universe.
Renee Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, starting a lot of investigations but very rarely getting to see them through as she hands the case over to day shift detectives.
Once an up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.
But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to hand over so easily: The brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot, and a young woman killed in a nightclub shooting.
Against the wishes of her partner and against official orders, she works on the cases during the day while working her usual shift at night. As the cases come together, they bring her closer to her own demons.
- Great twist ending.
- A dark story with humorous moments.
- Excellent launch to a new series.
- Some readers found the use of police terminology confusing.
In the second installment in the Harry Bosch series, Narcotics officer Cal Moore is ordered to look into the latest drug killing in the city.
But instead, he winds up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note found in his back pocket.
Now working on the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the first rule of policing: Don’t look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together.
Harry is soon making some seriously dangerous connections, starting with a dead policeman and leading to a gruesome string of murders that stretch from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border.
Now, this veteran cop will find himself in the middle of a dangerous, complicated game.
- Plausible yet engaging story.
- Excellent pacing.
- You’ll be rooting for Harry Bosch throughout.
- Some readers noticed errors in some smaller plot details.
Now we’re in the top three of my list for the 15 best Michael Connelly books, and this is actually the first book in the Jack McEvoy series although it is still part of the wider Harry Bosch Universe series.
Jack McEvoy is a crime-beat reporter in Denver who regularly reports on grisly deaths. When his homicide detective brother commits suicide, McEvoy copes in the only way he knows how – he writes the story.
But his research leads him to suspect a serial killer is at work, a devious cop killer who is leaving poetic clues in their wake. It will be the news story of a lifetime if Jack can make it out of the investigation alive.
- Creepier and more chilling than Connelly’s other works.
- Packed with suspense.
- Has a foreword by Stephen King.
- Contains subject matter that might be upsetting for some readers.
Since the prolific, long-running series Harry Bosch has dominated this list, it’s no surprise that the second installment in this series – The Black Echo – is the second-best Michael Connelly book.
For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body found in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than just another anonymous statistic – it’s personal, as the murder victim was a fellow Vietnam ‘tunnel rat’ who had fought alongside Harry in a horrific underground war, and sends all the traumatic memories of Vietnam to come rushing back.
From a thrilling criminal heist in the city’s underground to a dangerous maze of blind alleys, Bosch’s survival instincts will be pushed to their limit once more.
Pitted against enemies inside his own department and forced to make the difficult choice between vengeance and justice, Bosch goes searching for a killer who he truly didn’t see coming.
- Celebrates the mystery noir genre.
- Readers appreciated the historical elements and how they impacted the plot.
- Great twist ending.
- Some readers found the plot clichéd at times.
The Lincoln Lawyer is my pick for the best Michael Connelly book and is the premier novel of the Mickey Haller series.
Mickey Haller has spent his career afraid that he wouldn’t be able to tell if someone was innocent even if it was staring him in the face, but he should have been more concerned about his ability to detect evil.
Haller is the Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense attorney, so named because he works out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car.
He travels between the courthouses of LA to defend clients of every kind. Bikers, con artists, drug dealers, inebriated drivers… there is no client Mickey Haller won’t take on.
For Haller, the law is rarely about innocence or guilt, it’s about manipulation, negotiation, and – occasionally – justice.
In the first installment of the Mickey Haller series, a playboy in Beverly Hills is arrested for attacking a woman who he met in a bar and wants Haller to defend him.
He is the highest-paying client Haller has had in years and is what defense attorneys call a ‘franchise case.’ As the evidence piles up, Haller even believes it might be the simplest case he has ever taken on.
Then someone he’s close to is murdered, and Haller discovers that his search for innocence confronts him with pure evil. To get out alive, Haller has to use everything in his arsenal.
- Has a twist you won’t see coming.
- An insightful story about the justice system.
- Believable characters.
- Some readers found the book had a slow start.
Michael Connelly is a prolific writer of crime fiction, and many fans are invested in the lives of Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller, Renee Bollard, and Jack McEvoy.
He is considered one of the greatest modern crime writers, but what should you look for in a crime novel? Read on to find out.
Twists And Turns
The appetite for crime fiction has always been large and has, in fact, only grown over the years.
If you’re an avid reader of crime fiction, you may find that the more simplistic plots of crime fiction no longer scratch that itch – or worse – you see the big twist coming.
A good crime novel is full of twists, with complex and intricate narratives that still remain totally plausible.
Avoid Victims And Violence As Plot Devices
Crime writers – particularly those working in film and TV – have been criticized for using violence and victims (particularly sexual violence) just as plot devices to move the story along and to develop the perpetrator of the crime, rather than sympathetic people with complex backstories.
This silences victims and makes them passive, unable to reflect on what’s happening to them. Merely, we see the crimes through the eyes of the criminal – or the character investigating the crime – and not the victim’s point of view.
A well-developed character who falls victim to a crime is far more effective than a victim who is simply a plot device. It makes it easier for us to root for the victim and for justice to be served as well as makes for a far more gripping story.
Conflict is at the root of all drama, and this is especially true of crime fiction.
A good crime fiction novel is filled with conflict, whether that be the obstacles a protagonist has to overcome, their inner conflicts, conflicts against their morality and their ethics, conflicts between their enemies, or anything that makes their lives difficult!
A crime novel that is over 1,000 pages is rare to see, with such epic word counts being reserved for fantasy or science fiction novels. Readers of crime fiction want action and less world-building.
Every chapter should have a purpose and exist for a reason, mainly the uncovering of a clue that takes the hero a step closer to catching the killer.
As Few Clichés As Possible
We know that a thriller is full of twists and turns, so when a novel is full of stereotypes and clichés it’s going to make the plot more predictable and less thrilling – especially if you’re a seasoned crime fiction reader who is familiar with the well-worn tropes of crime fiction. Popular clichés in crime fiction include:
- Heroes with vices.
- Heroes that have obsessions with certain types of music.
- Gender stereotypes like the prim and proper female love interest who eventually falls for the male protagonist’s charms.
- A genius crime-solver who struggles with interpersonal relationships.
- The funny, squeamish sidekick.
- The serial killer with a ‘brilliant mind.’
- Cops from troubled families.
- Monologues from the murderer explaining exactly why they did it.
- The sidekick who only exists to receive exposition.
- The firm police chief.
- A child, parent, or spouse who the hero is estranged from.
- A young female character who is underestimated.
- Middle-aged men with young female love interests.
Some elements are hard to avoid, but when a writer takes these clichés and subverts them, the story avoids being clichéd.
I hope my pick for the 15 best Michael Connelly books sets you off on the right path to really enjoy his books!
Michael Connelly is a prolific crime writer, and trying to read all his books can feel overwhelming, especially as they are standalones. Where do you start? From the beginning or with the most highly rated books?
If you choose the latter, then I hope this list will come in handy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Read Michael Connelly Books Out Of Order?
Although reading all of Michael Connelly’s books may seem like a daunting task, it is possible! As Harry Bosch is such a massive presence in his books, I recommend starting with the Harry Bosch series.
What Does Harry Bosch Look Like In The Books?
Harry Bosch is described as having graying brown hair and a mustache. His eyes are also a distinctive feature, as they are very dark brown and almost black.
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