Customer Reviews: Angels Flight (A Harry Bosch Novel)
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VINE VOICEon December 22, 2000
Ever since I read Connelly's *The Black Echo*, the first of the Harry Bosch mysteries, I've been hooked on these wonderfully complex, fabulously written novels. Bosch is (predictably) "hard-boiled and melancholy, but with a heart of gold," as befits this venerable fictional genre. Yes, there are many, MANY cop/P.I. detective series out there, but in my estimation, Connelly's Bosch series is the best, and *Angels Flight* shows why.
The theme in this novel is the atmosphere of racial distrust and recriminations against the Los Angeles police that has emerged in the wake of the Rodney King cases and the O.J. Simpson trial. Connelly succeeds for the most part in capturing the tragic essence of what has been wrought by the legacy of police misconduct and the African American reaction to it in the city of angels.
Not surprisingly, he is most effective in presenting the police perspective here: the outrage and frustration at the deterioration of police credibilty in the community overall; the combination of anger and grudging admiration that a get-the-police black attorney might elicit from conscientious police professionals; the increasing disillusionment as the politicization of police affairs becomes ever more complete.
If there is a weakness in Connelly's adventuresome foray into political territory, it's related to the delicate and difficult race-related theme he has addressed here. To succeed totally in this endeavor, Connelly must navigate through some extremely tricky sociological issues, and it becomes apparent that he might be in a bit over his head in this regard. When attempting to provide the African American perspective on police presence and conduct in LA, for example, Connelly does a decent but not outstanding job. Clearly, here he is an "outsider."
This flaw is forgiveable, of course, in light of the fact that his principal task is to provide an engrossing police mystery. Here, he succeeds brilliantly, as always. Along the way, he presents a picture of contemporary society that is dark, frightening, almost hopeless. To say that this novel is "noir" is an understatement. Connelly's portrayal of human nature, contemporary police and civil politics, and the ongoing deterioration of "the California dream" in the city of angels is stunningly powerful. This is not a book that will appeal to the faint of heart.
As always, there is a thread in this novel that continues "the story" where it left off in his previous mystery in which Bosch was the protagonist. Consequently, whereas this book certainly can provide a can't-put-it-down read for those who have never read any of the previous Bosch mysteries, these books are best appreciated if they are read in chronological order, beginning with *The Black Echo*.
Currently, I've been reading Dennis Lehane and Robert Crais mysteries. These are terrific, but as I turn the pages I can't wait for the next Bosch novel to be released.
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When a prominent African-American criminal defense attorney is murdered in downtown Los Angeles, Harry Bosch get assigned the case. Unfortunately, the primary suspects are elite detectives in the city’s Robbery Homicide Division. The case is a political loser. If he arrests a cop, he loses the respect of his fellow officers. If he doesn’t arrest a cop, the city will erupt in a riot.

Oh, and Bosch’s year-old marriage is falling apart.

Angels Flight is Michael Connelly’s sixth Harry Bosch novels, and like the previous ones, I couldn’t put it down. Connelly writes a tight, well-paced whodunit. The twists and turns of the investigation keep your eyes glued to the page even as your empathy for the investigator grows because of his personal crisis. You want Bosch to solve the crime and save his marriage. But can he really do both?

Connelly has his pulse on the post-Rodney King antipathy between Los Angeles’ black residents and the LAPD. This lends verisimilitude to the novel’s portrait of rogue police officers, race hustlers, and bureaucratic fixers. In the end, everyone gets what they want, though not in the way they expected. Angels Flight is a great read, probably the best of the first six installments in Connelly’s twenty-novel Bosch series.
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on December 13, 2008
I have generally regarded The Concrete Blonde as the best of the Connelly catalogue, but that view has changed. Angels Flight is an exceptionally good novel. The mystery element is good but it's not what makes this a great novel. Connelly has always been good at exposing the reader to the politics of the LAPD, but never more so than in Angels Flight. There is a racially charged element to the murder in this novel that results in political maneuvering and gamesmanship that I found fascinating. The novel effectively explores issues of racism in the context of a city rocked by Rodney King and OJ Simpson.

Bosch is a character with real depth and he's given a lot to deal with in this novel. His relationship with his wife is unraveling and he doesn't understand why, a former partner is being used as a scapegoat, and his team is being used as pawns in a high stakes political game. Harry is a flawed and real human being who occasionally missteps, who questions his own judgment at times, who occasionally lets his temper get the better of him but who can also be pragmatic enough to know when he has to `go along to get along' - even when it doesn't sit well with him.

This is a well plotted novel. Admittedly, some of the plot twists are a little predictable, but this is a very entertaining police procedural elevated by Connelly's insight into the LAPD and the fully realized character of Harry Bosch. This is an intelligent, compelling page turner that is easily one of the best crime novels I have ever read.

Highly recommended.
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on December 22, 1999
Connelly continues his first rate series concerning Harry Boesch and the L.A.P.D. As usual with Connelly, the plotting is tight and the story moves at a fast pace. This Boesch story is especially compelling with its focus on the Los Angeles racial tensions between Blacks and the Police. A prominent Black attorney is murdered on the eve of an important civil rights case which may seriously tarnish the reputation of the L.A.P.D. Connelly masterfully mines this fertile material for maximum impact and relevance to the current racial climate in Los Angeles. As usual, Harry Boesch is an excellent character who brings some compassion and humanity into another ugly situation. This is one of Connelly's best books.
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VINE VOICEon May 6, 2012
I finally slogged through this thing and I only finished because I finish 98.5% of all the books I start. It is full of chapter after chapter where absolutely nothing happens garnished with an ultimately meaningless red herring or two. The final explanation calls for such complex planning and execution with such precise detail that I would have preferred the author just say grey aliens beamed down and killed the two victims. It would have been easier to swallow. Early on the author has the LAPD Inspector General commit two felonies by destroying evidence in a murder case which Bosch quickly uncovers and still he sits still while she repeatedly gives him an ACLU approved lecture on the need to watch those dirty cops. he doesn't just let her get away with this smug holier than thou attitude he seems to partially buy it. Pitiful. I still like the Lincoln Lawyer series but I'm finished with trying to like the new improved Bosch.
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on September 15, 2008
Howard Elias is part of the Los Angeles upper crust. As a very high profile African-American attorney and racial activist, his lucrative practice consists in large part of suing the LAPD for real, perceived or imagined civil rights infractions against the black community in LA. When he is murdered in a particularly vindictive fashion on the very eve of an important trial against four white officers, the administration of the LAPD recognizes that it has no choice but to investigate its own members and let the chips fall where they may. The case is assigned to Harry Bosch and his Hollywood homicide squad, rookie black female officer, Kiz Rider and a senior detective, Jerry Edgar, also a black officer in good standing. The political considerations behind the choice of this team to investigate the case are obvious. Bosch, Rider and Edgar, probably more through good luck than good management, have never been sued by Elias. That the squad has two black members obviously makes the choice even more politically palatable.

Michael Connelly has stepped up to the plate once again and treated us to an exciting police procedural that will thrill Harry Bosch fans to their very toes. Los Angeles is graphically portrayed as a tinder box ready to explode into a reprise of the Watts riots that took place in the aftermath of the Rodney King trial. As we've come to expect, Bosch continues to be a come-what-may investigator whose only pursuit is the truth. As Bosch's former partner, Frank Sheehan, comes under suspicion for the murder, Bosch's friendship, his loyalty and the steadfastness of his principles are tested to their limits.

This might not be the best novel that Connelly ever wrote. But I still haven't encountered the entry in the growing Harry Bosch canon that doesn't keep me flipping pages at a torrid pace. Internal departmental politics and race take centre stage in "Angel's Flight" as Bosch butts heads with the senior levels of the department, the FBI, Internal Affairs and even his own partners. Readers who have followed Bosch from the very start will also be interested in the side plot about his new wife, former FBI agent, Eleanor Wish.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
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on September 19, 2011
Have you ever been waiting to read a certain book because it REALLY LOOKS GOOD, and not only that, but you, the reader, are convinced that THIS BOOK is really going to be good, only to have it be extremely annoying? Man, this was how "Angels Flight" was to me. Hey, I've been enjoying the Harry Bosch stories, and was eager to read this so I could read "Blood Work," and then move on to "A Darkness More than Night," and I was really hoping that Connelly was going to pack some real punch in this one. I was disappointed overall. Connelly can do better, and I expect better!

Elias Howard is a hard-core, hard-hitting attorney, huge in the black community, and a thorn in the LAPD's side. Well, while in an area known as Angels Flight, Elias, "The Thorn in the Side," is conveniently removed, and he's removed permanently! And although Harry Bosch isn't on call this particular weekend, Irving has other plans and says otherwise. And it is up to Harry and his team to make sure that all hell doesn't break loose!

Add to the equation that Harry's marriage just might be on the rocks with Eleanor, and you figure you have the latest and greatest bestseller. Right?

Well, ok. It says THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER on the front cover. Right? But I don't have to feel as obligated as the New York Times. I thought that Connelly has done a lot better in his writing, and this wasn't it! It was choppy, it didn't have that flow that Michael Connelly usually has in his natural way. And in the end, I suppose if you wanted a Hollywood version, then Connelly takes the easy way out and gives his readers just that. So now I can read the two books that feature Terry McCaleb, and I'll gladly forget about this one. I may have graciously given Michael Connelly 3 stars, and trust me, I'm being nice for doing such a thing, but I'll be glad to forget about the adventures in "Angels Flight!" Good riddance! Hope the next ride is worth it, like Connelly has been before this.
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on September 11, 2011
I have read a few Harry Bosch books here and there and have found his character to be very compelling. The mysteries/crimes are nearly always fascinating. Thus, I would say that Michael Connolly is successful in creating a fast, entertaining read.

*slight spoiler alert for the end, not revealing names or really details, but some might not want to read*

However, while Connolly does try to present what is called in politically-correct terminology "a balanced approach", I find it frightening that a riot not only ends the book, but kills a cop in a highly violent manner. Throughout the text, the audience has been told that there are two sides to every story. We have been given two perspectives on the idea of riots and why they occur. Bosch never seems to decide between the two which is fine in itself. However, regardless of Bosch's ability to keep both ideas afloat, the author makes his own statement by ending the text in a way that seems to confirm the worst most racist (not my term really because other respected characters suggest that it is racist to argue that the black community in LA will riot and will not be able to process information about this case in a rational manner) notions brought up by the characters.

The end is complicated, something the author is good at introducing, and suggests a number of conclusions: a) bad people get bad endings, b) "justice" is often meted out in some forum whether it is within or without the law, and c) the minority community of LA is self-destructive and without morals (ex. they beat firefighters who are putting out a fire in their neighborhood). Now, I suppose I should acknowledge that this book is a noir book and so there are some conventions that are expected like an overall negative philosophy about 'the system', its corrupting influence, and its ability to exact justice. I see that and as far as this book is 'simply' entertainment (something I don't really believe in), then I get it.

Still, all books have ideological messages and while I credit Connolly with being brutally honest about many aspects of law enforcement, crime and power, I find that the ending really undoes what I presume is his attempt to present the world as having two (or more) sides at all times. It is ultimately a raging minority mob who literally blindly reaches out and just 'happens' to grab the bad guy. Sure, we get the bad guy, Bosch is awesome and depressed from worldly knowledge as usual, but in a broader social sense it is a little disturbing the overall message of the text.

I'll still read the Harry Bosch books and I'll still 'like' them, but there is more to a book than your own emotional experience.
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on September 3, 2000
Angels Flight is not as good as Void Moon, but it is still a great crime novel. Connelly is your better-than-average crime/suspense novelist and he doesn't disappoint with Angels Flight.
Harry Bosch is great & the story basically is about the murder of 2 people, one being a high-profile lawyer. It is better than just your average 'whodunit' as it is still political enough to be interesting and still clever enough to keep you guessing throughout the book, with enough twists to make it believable.
After a few crappy crime/suspense novels that I have read in the last couple of days, Connelly was just the ticket to get me back into great ones again & I have just ordered all his books!
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on August 13, 2012
I was just reading the section in the Noe Yawk Times Book Review, where they ask some author or celebrity what their favorite book is, and that got me to thinking, What is my favorite book?

That's a difficult question to answer, but then I remembered that there are several books that I've read many times. Repeated readings must be an indication of how much I enjoy a book, and if nothing else, it demonstrates that the book is worth reading more than once. In my teens, I read Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries over and over. Other favorites that I never tire of are The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler, any history by Barbara Tuchman or William Manchester, Honey in the Horn by H. L. Davis. At parties in my youth, I often read aloud from the bizarre This Is Your Final Warning! by Thom Metzger.

But it so happens that the one book I've read and reread more than any other is Angels Flight. I admire all of Michael Connelly's novels, but in this one he goes beyond the classic hard-boiled-detective, whodunit genre. It's really a work of literature.

I once saw Michael Connelly at a book signing, and when he autographed this book for me, he told me that he wrote it backwards -- that is, he wrote the ending, and then wrote the chapters in reverse order. That seemed strange to me, because the ending is the weakest part of the book. Like most of his novels, Angels Flight goes on for too long, and the last third of the novel is just another of his sordid tales of an evil old man who molests children. (Chapters 39- 40 are pure bathos.) But the beginning of the book is closer to Dostoyevsky than the typical crime thriller.

What makes this novel so great is what it lacks. Connelly has abandoned the standard devices of most authors.

Second-rate novelists often rely on the threadbare device of the simile. I imagine that in creative writing classes they teach nascent authors to use as many similes as possible. (A simile is a metaphor with "like" or "as" in the sentence, and ironically one of Connelly's favorite authors, Raymond Chandler, wrote one of the most famous and egregious similes in fiction: "He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.") I am often dismayed that an author I otherwise admire will stoop to using such a hackneyed contrivance, but in general, the worse the author, the more rancid the simile. Connelly has dispensed with such artifice entirely.

There is no "blind lead," where the book starts out with a vague and shadowy description of something unnamed, and you will learn the details of how it fits into the plot later. There is very little description in any of Connelly's novels, and if you really want to know what the scene looks like, you can purchase Blue Neon Night - Michael Connelly's Los Angeles, a DVD of Los Angeles landmarks that are often mentioned in the novels. The same footage is available at various places on line.

James A. Michener famously said that he deliberately made the opening chapters of his novels difficult so as to "Weed out the ribbon clerks"(a gambling expression). That doesn't happen with Connelly's novels. He burns rubber from the opening paragraph. Unlike inferior novels such as the most popular book among women (where he doesn't put the pork to her until chapter 8), Angels Flight takes no time to get going. On page one, the phone rings. Harry Bosch is summoned to a crime scene. There is no setup, no gimmickry. You hit the ground running. The dialogue is terse and realistic. The situation is plausible. There's no temptation to skip ahead, and you wouldn't dare, because things move fast.

Nor is the story told out of sequence -- the latest fad -- jumping back-and-forth in time. The beauty of Michael Connelly's style is that he has stripped the writing down to its bare essentials, and in discarding the gimmicks, he has thus made it more effective.

Characters in the novels of Dan Brown and Michael Crichton often flit about to scenes in another continent. Most of this novel takes place within a few square miles of downtown Los Angeles. Unlike the novels of Tom Clancy, the locale never shifts to what Team B is doing on the other side of the earth. Nobody in Connelly's novels hops onto a waiting private jet.

Although the reviews of Angels Flight posted here are overwhelmingly positive, I can see why a casual reader in the market for an action-thriller might not enjoy this novel. As opposed to the typical good-guys/bad-guys scenario of most popular fiction, Angels Flight is unrelentingly dark and depressing. There are no thrills in the form of car chases or shootouts; no racing around trying to find a time bomb with a red digital-readout. It's not a movie script, it's a novel.

Reading through his oeuvre, one notices with admiration how much Connelly improved as a writer over the span of his early novels. He gradually discarded anything that was unrealistic or a cliché. Thrown overboard were the perverted evil genius lurking under the bed; no more Dollmaker; no one crawling through ventilation ducts. In place of the boogeyman, there appeared the far more disturbing threat of sociopolitical conflict. Instead of escapist entertainment, stark realism became his intent.

Most of the early scenes in Angels Flight take place inside confined areas, instilling a feeling of claustrophobic unease in the reader. The protagonist, Harry Bosch, is, as usual, menaced by his old nemesis, Deputy Chief Irving. Bosch can't trust his fellow cops. His wife is leaving him. The principal case is taken away from him. Frankie Sheehan's ordeal. The sense of frustration and isolation are overwhelming. It's not a fun book.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I have occasionally purchased some book, sold it, then purchased it again some years later. Poor books make such a slight impression on me, that I forget that I've read them. I haven't read Angels Flight in its entirety in about five years, yet I recall some scenes in it vividly, as if I'd just put the book down. Occasionally, I'll read just a passage, a few pages in the book, because because they're my favorite writing. Sometimes, so as to clear my palate, I'll pick this book up after reading a particularly trashy novel, just to remind myself that I really do enjoy reading. It's just as you might have a favorite song that you listen to when you're in a certain mood. The late-night clandestine meeting where Harry Bosch and Captain John Garwood sit in a car parked at Frank Sinatra's star on the Hollywood Walk is one such passage, and I often paraphrase Garwood's words to a friend: "I know how you feel. Everybody's drinking, but you can't."

I should again mention that the whodunit aspect of this novel is of minor importance. After the denouement, when the identity of the real killer is revealed, it's somewhat of a letdown. The poignancy of the story is Harry Bosch's determination to press on after everyone and everything has turned against him, when any ordinary man would've given it up . . . and just quit. The mystery isn't the story, Harry Bosch is the story. Stubborn, volatile, generally dislikable, this character launched a host of imitators (e.g., Harry Hole). Before Harry Bosch, detectives were suave, debonaire, unbeatable. Now, detectives with problems are the fad. Before Michael Connelly's breakthrough the only problem detectives had was keeping the dames off of them.

Novelists who are generally considered to be profound -- e.g., David Foster Wallace or Thomas Pynchon -- include everything they can think of in their books: politics, ethics, metaphysics. Michael Connelly takes the opposite approach. He zeros in on the thoughts and actions of one man -- Harry Bosch -- to the exclusion of all else. It's very focused writing, and that seems to me to be a more difficult feat to perform.
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