Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Black Echo

I've been wanting to read the Hieronymus Bosch, not the painter, novels by Michael Connelly for some time. As luck would have it I happened upon the first book, "The Black Echo" (412 pages) in the series courtesy of my mother. For once I won't be starting a series somewhere in the middle. From Goodreads:

"For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch - hero, maverick, nighthawk - the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal.

The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam 'tunnel rat' who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell. Now, Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city to the tortuous link that must be uncovered, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit.

Joining with an enigmatic and seductive female FBI agent, pitted against enemies inside his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him."

The good:

I really like the character of Harry Bosch, in spite of all the crime novel clichés. He's a grizzled, insomniac LAPD detective with a troubled early life. The book does a nice job of introducing Bosch and slowly putting the pieces together of his life and the reasons he is the way he is. Again, it's a cliché, but he does his work his own way and often isn't considered part of the LAPD "family." I'll be interested to see how he grows as I read more novels from the series.

Connelly is a very readable writer and his books always move at a fast clip. The story is decent enough here but nothing too thrilling as a large portion of it deals with a bank robbery, though it is intriguing how the robbery goes down. It took me a few days to get through the novel, which is kind of unusual for me with this kind of read. Hopefully further readings into the series will be a little more exciting. The novel is mostly redeemed toward the end with a clever twist I didn't really see coming.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Go see it at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The bad:

Another book written in the early '90s. Pay phones and pagers to communicate, orange screen computers and snail mail to gather information. It's a wonder that good police work could be done, and swiftly, in such an age!

It's funny to read about all the places people could smoke in LA in 1992. Bosch is always lighting a cigarette and I'm sure it made me smoke a little more than usual while reading.

I disliked that the structure of the book was laid out in lengthy parts rather than chapters. It's just a personal taste but I like to lay down a book at the end of the chapter if necessary. Due to time constraints this wasn't always possible with this novel.

The ugly:

Being a "tunnel rat" in Vietnam. Smoking out spider holes is not a job I'd want or wish on anyone else.

In conclusion, "The Black Echo" is a decent enough story, though it is a little mediocre compared to the Connelly novels that I've read. I look forward to reading other books in the series and hopefully the stories will improve. Recommended to fans of the genre and the author.

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