The Black Echo

Reviewed: September 10, 2004
By: Michael Connelly
Publisher: Warner Books
482 pages, $10.99

I've been wanting to read a book by Michael Connelly ever since I saw Clint Eastwood's film version of his novel Bloodwork. My opportunity came when I had to upgrade the reader software I use on my handheld PDA after moving to a new laptop computer. The new E-reader wasn't that expensive and PalmOne bundled a number of e-books with it. One of them was an omnibus version of three early novels in the Harry Bosch series. The book citation above is what you'd get if you bought the real book by itself.

Mysteries used to be all about the puzzle, which was the crime. The game was to read the book, list the clues, discard the distractions, and solve the crime. Nowadays, even police procedurals are more about the puzzles who are the characters. The typical protagonist is damaged goods who only really functions well within the confines of his or her job. If he or she is a private eye or a police officer, chances are this job choice will have been the result of a deep seated need to forge some order out of chaos.

Harry Bosch (yes his full name is Heironymous, after the artist) is a Viet Nam veteran who was once what they called a tunnel rat, one of those unfortunate grunts who were picked to wage war in the underground warrens which seemed to honeycomb the hamlets in that dreadful conflict.

Harry returned home and became a policeman. He's pretty good at it. Tracked down a serial killer, but got in trouble because he somehow managed to shoot the guy while he was reaching under his pillow for something that turned out to be a wig. Still, Harry got famous, and his adventure was turned into a movie, which gave him the money to buy the house he owns, and earned him enough ire in the department that he got transferred to the Hollywood Homicide detail, which is not nearly as nice was it might sound.

From Harry's point of view that allows him the peace to live alone, drink when he feels like it, and try to sleep at night - which hasn't come easy since, well, you know ...

The body turns up in a sort of tunnel, a large pipe near the Mulholland Dam. It's supposed to be an overdose and Harry's partner, who sells real estate after hours and really resents being on call, wants to blow it off and get back to his other job. (Could the folks who made the movie `Hollywood Homicide” have borrowed this bit for an otherwise unrelated story?) Harry won't.

The reason Harry won't is that he knows the guy in the pipe from his unit in `Nam, and the set-up looks to him like a scam. possibly connected to a much larger problem. No one wants to believe this. Harry can't seem to interest the FBI in his theory that something big is going down, and when he tries harder he ends up under investigation by Internal Affairs.

It turns out that the feds already know what Harry has figured out and that he is essentially able to coerce them into letting him in on the game. More than that I will not tell you, other than to say that this one has more twists and turns than an attempt at logical debate in the Legislature. From the style of this story it seems that the Eastwood film of the other novel was true to form.

This writer is a new discovery for me, although this book was first published in 1992. When that kind of thing happens the nice part is always that there are lots more books yet to be enjoyed.