Four years ago, L. A. homicide detective, Harry Bosch, was part of a task force hunting a sadistic serial killer known as the Dollmaker. The killer preyed on vulnerable women and was blamed for taking the lives of eleven victims. Late one night, after the rest of the team had gone home, Bosch took a frantic call from a prostitute who said that she had just escaped from the Dollmaker. Harry assumed this was probably just another false lead and decided to meet the woman on his way home, without notifying anyone else.
Upon meeting the victim, though, Bosch concluded that she was credible, especially when she led him back to the small apartment where she said the killer had held her. Through the window, Bosch could see a man moving about in the apartment. He thought about calling for backup, but realized that the Dollmaker might have already lured another victim into the apartment and that he might kill her before reinforcements could arrive. Accordingly, Bosch kicked in the door and found a naked man standing across the floor. Bosch ordered him to freeze, but instead the man reached under a pillow, as if going for a weapon. Bosch fired once, killing the man instantly. Then, lifting up the pillow, he saw that the man had been reaching for a toupee.
Once Harry called it in, reinforcements arrived and found solid evidence linking the victim to nine of the eleven killings. The case was declared closed, and in spite of his role in bringing the case to a successful conclusion, Bosch was demoted from the elite Robbery-Homicide Division for failing to call for backup before entering the apartment.
Now, four years later, the family of the man Bosch killed is suing him and the department, claiming that Bosch acted recklessly and without cause in shooting the man he believed to be the killer. The trial has barely begun, however, when a new victim is discovered--a blonde who had been killed and encased in concrete. The killing bears all the signature touches of the Dollmaker, but this victim has only been dead for two years. Is it possible after all, that Bosch shot an innocent man?
Bosh insists that he did not, and that the new killer must be a copycat. The book thus proceeds along two tracks as Harry stands trial for his actions four years earlier while at the same time hunting a sadistic killer who may or may not have been the real Dollmaker all along. It's a riveting story on both fronts. The courtroom scenes are very well done and will appeal to readers who enjoy legal thrillers. Harry's adversary in court, a female attorney nicknamed "Money" Chandler is a great character in her own right. The hunt for the killer is also edge-of-your-seat stuff, and through it all, Harry is forced to examine the deep, inner darkness of his own soul. All in all, a very solid early entry in a great series.