Connelly, Michael. Black Echo.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.

The first of Connelly’s novels I read were several of his later, non-series books. (Except that all of them are actually part of a collection of overlapping character-driven sub-series.) They were mostly okay but not especially memorable. But I noted the high esteem in which the man is held and I went back and found copies of a few of his earlier works. This one, in fact, is his first, an award-winning introduction to the cranky, quirky, frequently uncooperative but always true-to-himself LAPD homicide detective, Harry Bosch.Harry is the product of one institution after another, from growing up the foster care system, to serving in Vietnam, to joining the police force. He’s a first-rate detective but his in-your-face attitude toward the world in general tends to keep him in trouble and under investigation. In fact, after twenty years on the force, Harry may already be past his peak, having recently been demoted from the elite Robbery-Homicide Division at Parker Center to the homicide desk at Hollywood Division. He doesn’t much seem to care, though, and he may actually be happier there. He can pursue his personal quest wherever he might be. This case begins when a body discovered in a pipe at Mulholland Reservoir turns out to be a fellow tunnel rat Harry had worked with in Nam. It doesn’t take him long to decide that the apparent OD is actually a murder victim — but why? The plot coils and curves and loops through Los Angeles and Saigon and the FBI and the Department of Internal Affairs as Harry, teamed up for the duration with Special Agent Eleanor Wish, tries to figure out what’s going on, what larger crime the murder is a part of. And how is he going to deal with the two IAD bozos who, acting on orders from an Assistant Chief who wants Harry’s head on a platter, get everything wrong and in the worst possible way. Harry’s memories of the war and his childhood and his mother are a big part of the story and make him a very interesting character indeed. There aren’t many heroes in Harry’s world — certainly not Harry himself. People are much too complicated for such simplistic judgments. The procedural details are deftly handled and Harry’s ingenuity at interpreting evidence and taking the next step are fascinating. So are the departmental politics. Connelly’s Chandleresque writing and relentlessly devious plotting, however (and unfortunately), are much better here than in his most recent work.

Published in: on 12 January 2010 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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