The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly

LastCoyotePBThis morning I left the house at 6a to run 14 miles.  We live on a dead end street and to get to the road I start from I have to walk through a short pathway that is blocked on either side by low wooden fencing.  This time of year it is still dark at that hour and the streetlights poised several feet from this part of the dead end don’t penetrate the darkness of this open alley.  It’s only 50′ or so from one side to the other but if it was in another neighborhood I’d really hesitate walking through there.

Not for fear of being mugged but we have some wild animals that make their way into our part of LA.  I’ve seen raccoons as big as dogs and skunks waddle from fallen trash cans.  On these dark mornings I’m often relieved to make it through the dark passage without being sprayed or bitten.

I’ve never seen one close to our house but today as I crossed from the dark to the incandescent glow of the streetlight an approaching coyote stopped in his tracks and stared at me.  He was about the size of our dog Brody and he didn’t linger.  He turned and went the opposite direction disappearing into the shadows.  I’ve seen several on my early morning runs.  There was one that I followed for several blocks up the alleys of Sherman Oaks and the one that was finishing the nights catch of black house cat on a family’s lawn.  They’ve been called the “Ghosts of the City” and they do seem to be that on some level.  The little guy I startled this morning was gone as fast as he’d appeared.

In this novel we find Harry has been suspended for attacking his commanding officer and is being forced to see the departments psychologist.  He’s developed an anger management problem.  With the spare time he decides to try to solve the case of his murdered mother and takes us on a journey of self discovery.  Through the therapy he comes to tell the doctor that his philosophy to his job is that “everybody counts.”  His mother was a street walker and to the LAPD she didn’t count and he begins to break all the rules to find her killer.   In a drunken haze one night he pulls over on Mulholland Drive to watch a well worn coyote.  The animal stops to look at Harry and it comes to Harry that both he and the coyote are like beings – vanishing breeds being pushed out by society.  This moment begins to occur in his dreams only Harry chases the coyote until he can run no further or to destinations the animal takes him.  This book has a dramatic and unsuspected ending and is once again another example of how good Connelly can spin a noir tale.

As far as the coyotes in our neighborhood?  I love that wildlife defies all of society.  Amazing and fun to bump into these ghosts every so often.

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