Book Review: Blood Work by Michael Connelly

  • Blood Work
  • by Michael Connelly
  • Publisher – Little, Brown
  • Copyright 1998
  • 391 pages

Rating – 7/10

Review – A decade or so ago, an out-of-town guest and I watched the Clint Eastwood film Blood Work when we were looking for something to do on the weekend. Having enjoyed the film, I later grabbed the Michael Connelly novel on which it was based. Then the novel just sat for years until I finally got around to reading it.

As usual, it was a big mistake to see the movie first. If you see a movie before reading a mystery, it can be a cardinal sin because the film drains the suspense from the book. As is often the case, Hollywood made many changes when converting the book to a film. While it is fashionable to discuss the stupidity of Hollywood, I think that filmmakers had a good grasp on the novel’s weaknesses in deciding where to make changes.

Characters – McCaleb & Buddy

Michael Connelly is a fine mystery novelist. Prior to reading Blood Work, I had not read one of his novels in about a decade. But I’ve always enjoyed his vivid portraits of contemporary Los Angeles and the multi-faceted characters he creates.

In Blood Work, the star of the show is Terrell McCaleb, a forty-six-year-old ex-FBI agent who was forced into retirement when his heart failed. At the start of Blood Work, McCaleb lives on a boat docked at San Pedro and is recovering from a recent heart transplant. McCaleb’s “next-slip” neighbor is Buddy Lockridge, a harmonica-blowing party animal who helps add color and light touches to the book.

Plot & Problems

There’s a lot to like in Blood Work, but there are also drawbacks. The plot of the novel is intricate and wholly original. Reading it is like peeling back the layers of the onion – just when you think you understand it all, there appears another layer. At the beginning, a woman named Graciela Rivers approaches McCaleb and asks him to help solve her sister’s murder. He refuses, but is drawn into the case when Graciela reveals that it is her sister’s heart that McCaleb received in the transplant.

While Connelly has a gift for creating vivid characters, there are drawbacks to the way he develops McCaleb. In the finest tradition of mysteries, McCaleb is a little too smart. Throughout Blood Work, McCaleb solves mysteries with only the tiniest, most-ambiguous clues. You just don’t believe that it could happen this way.

Another big problem with the book is the ending. The filmmakers seemed to realize this, as the film Blood Work has a very-different ending from the novel. It has been said that the conclusion of a mystery is never as interesting as the mystery itself. This is particularly true of Blood Work.

Post Mortem

Blood Work is still worth a read. It’s not perfect, but it’s consistently entertaining. Once again, I advise enjoying the novel before seeing the movie.

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About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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