The Blue Religion Review
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Best-selling author and former journalist Michael Connelly certainly knows crime fiction. His Harry Bosch novels somehow manage to be both detailed and fast-paced—and both action-packed and character-driven. So when I saw that Connelly had edited this collection of short crime fiction, I knew I was in for a treat.

The Blue Religion is a collection of 19 short stories about cops, written by members of the Mystery Writers of America—from well-known favorites to talented newcomers. The book opens with “Skinhead Central,” T. Jefferson Parker’s story about a retired cop who can’t seem to leave The Job behind. And it ends with Connelly’s “Father’s Day,” a heartbreaking story in which Harry Bosch is called in to investigate the tragic death of a young boy. Those two stories—as well as the 17 in between—are artfully-crafted and often suspenseful stories that will challenge you and make you think.

Many of the stories touch on the challenges of being a cop—and the decisions they’re often forced to make. In “The Drought,” by James O. Born, a veteran cop is forced to choose between keeping the job he loves and protecting an innocent man. And in Persia Walker’s “Such a Lucky, Pretty Girl,” a cop tries to set aside the nightmares from her past in order to solve a new case.

Though most of the stories take place in the present day, there are a few exceptions—like Polly Nelson’s “Burying Mr. Henry,” which takes place in the old West, where everyone has secrets to keep. Or “Oaths, Ohani, and Everything,” by Diana Hansen-Young, in which a young Hawaiian cop struggles to decide where his allegiances lie as Hawaii prepares to become a part of America in 1898.

The majority of the stories in The Blue Religion are distinguished by their solid characters. It’s a collection of stories about real people—people who have something to prove, who have jobs to do, who have obstacles to overcome, and who have tough decisions to make. And most of the stories focus less on the criminals and their crimes than on the people who investigate them.

The characters in these stories are carefully and lovingly written. They’re flawed and often worn-out, but they’re good people who are trying to do what’s right. They’re almost always cops who care—those whose cases get to them. And the more the authors get inside the characters’ heads, the more fascinating the stories become.

Once again, Connelly didn’t let me down. He doesn’t just know how to write ‘em; he knows how to pick ‘em, too. And though there are a few stand-out stories in The Blue Religion, I can’t say that there’s a single dud. So if you’re a fan of crime fiction, this character-driven collection is definitely a must-read.

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