The Black Echo (Harry Bosch #1), by Michael Connelly

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After having watched the TV shows “Bosch” and “The Lincoln Lawyer”, both based on novels by Michael Connelly, I decided it was high-time to read a Bosch novel. Titus Welliver’s stellar performance as Bosch raised my expectations sky high…

In the novels, Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is a homicide detective in Los Angeles, who was named after a painter and whose mother was killed when he was young. He has a daughter with his ex-wife, and follows his own code of ethics. He is a loner and a maverick, who often faces conflicts with his bosses and peers. He is also a Vietnam War veteran where he served as a “tunnel rat”, a soldier who explored and cleared the underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong.

He is flawed, damaged, and sometimes reckless, but he is also loyal, brave, and compassionate. He has a strong sense of duty and honour, and he never gives up on a case. He is also very human, and he struggles with his personal relationships and his emotions. He is not perfect, but he is real.

In this first novel, “The Black Echo”, this is a prominent feature right from the start because a murder victim is found in a drainage pipe which quickly leads to Bosch investigating a bank heist which was carried out through the sewers…

“Echo” is an intelligent, well-written police procedural with a Bosch who could have jumped from the TV show back onto the pages of the novel: He’s disillusioned, tired, annoyed and angry most of the time and despite all that cannot help but do what’s right. He may stretch or break some rules along the way, but he always follows his conscience. I felt myself rooting for him all the way.

At least in the beginning of the novel, the writing shows that this was Connelly’s debut: It’s somewhat wooden and feels slightly clumsy.

»He became restless. He looked down into the green glass ashtray and saw that all the butts were unfiltered Camels. Was that Meadow’s brand or his killer’s? He got up and walked around the room. The faint smell of urine hit him again. He walked back into the bedroom. He opened the drawers of the bureau and stared at their contents once more. Nothing turned in his mind.«

After about the first third, though, the writing consistently improves; livelier, more engaging, and more elegant.

The pacing was a little slow in the beginning but picked up once Bosch had established rapport with the FBI. The more the story developed, the more fitting and even the pacing felt. From sedate pondering during observations to a wild chase through dark sewage tunnels, overall, Connelly did a great job.

“Echo” also seemed a bit dated – when Harry claims dibs on using a typewriter or asks people to look things up for him on the only computer in the department, it is obvious that this novel was first published in 1992. Also, people using public payphones all the time reminded me of those bad old times. I’m glad the TV show pushed things forward in time.

I also appreciated the supporting characters: Wish was a highly interesting partner and love interest. Lewis and Clarke, fittingly exploring what Bosch is doing, and trying to find something against him deliver comic relief and, ultimately, get their due… Last and least, Irvin Irving ist an interesting bureaucrat compared to Bosch’s relentless pragmatism.

The twists during the investigation were quite predictable but that didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of the story. Especially since the excellent ending precisely demonstrated what kind of person Bosch is…

Four out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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