on December 6, 1999
This was Michael Connelly's first novel (of 6 to date) featuring LAPD detective Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch. Matters begin innocuously enough when Bosch discovers that a dead body found in a drainage pipe is a one-time Vietnam comrade of his named William Meadows. It appears to be a simple drug overdose, but Bosch suspects foul play, and when he determines he is right, he is plunged into an investigation that develops into far more than a single murder case.
The "iceberg" plot where a complex scheme is only gradually exposed is a crime fiction standard. Connelly is, even in his first novel, a master at this type of plot-line. His characters are three-dimensional and interesting, especially Bosch and his uneasy ally, FBI agent Eleanor Wish. Best of all, Connelly knows his territory--a former Los Angeles Times reporter, he knows LA and the LAPD (I suspect he still has sources in the department). The Black Echo is a superb novel.
on November 7, 1999
The first book I read by Mr. Connelly was his departure from the Bosch series, "The Poet" and I knew I had to read the rest. I have read every single other Bosch novel and finally went back to the beginning and read this. I should have started with this one, its just as good if not better than the series and Bosch is a fully-fleshed out character who you can always cheer for. This book is also interesting because of its attention to detail and the police procedure as well as the first meeting of Harry and Agent Eleanor Wish, his mysterious future love. Connelly has become my favorite author and his books are a pleasure to read. Just make sure you start with this one and work your way down, it does make a difference!
An absolutely terrific first novel in the superb Hironymous Bosch series, introduces us to Michael Connelly's enigmatic and troubled LA detective. Harry Bosch lives for his job, and the cost to his personal life and relationships is troubling.
When we meet Harry, he has already been, in essence, demoted by being kicked off of the elite Robbery/Homicide squad and stuck in Homicide in the Hollywood division. But Harry is a pure detective, and will work every case with the same single-minded tenacity that gets results while alienating him from his fellows and irritating his bosses.
A throw-away death of a junkie found in a drainage pipe would have gone unnoticed if anyone but Harry Bosch had caught the call. But Bosch, while having a lousy personal life IS a superb detective, and he sees what many would miss. Not only that, but the victim is someone from Harry's past which further prompts him to look deeper. Harry's investigation causes him to cross paths with the FBI and his conflicts become even more personal when he becomes romantically involved with a female FBI agent.
The story unfolds with many surprises and the meticulous detail that we will come to expect from Connelly in the series. First rate all the way. A great beginning.
After reading about a half dozen books in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, I decided I better start at the beginning and read them in order. The Black Echo is the first Bosch mystery and it's an amazing effort for a first time novelist. In fact, it won the prestigious Edgar Award for mystery writing.
The Black Echo opens when LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch is called out on the discovery of a dead man in a drainage pipe. It appears that the victim died of an overdose, but enough red flags are raised to make Bosch suspect foul play. Not only that, but the detective actually knew the man: they were tunnel rats in Viet Nam. As Bosch starts investigating, he discovers that the victim, Bill Meadows, has been identified as a key suspect in a year old bank robbery. The robbers went through underground tunnels, and then dug their way into a bank safety deposit box vault. At first, the FBI rebuffs Bosch's attempts to pool information. But they finally relent and he is assigned to FBI agent, Eleanor Wish.
As the case progresses, Bosch and Wish discover that the bank caper has its roots in Viet Nam and things get very complicated and dangerous. Bosch also suspects that someone is working from the inside and compromising their case. Even when he thinks he's got everything figured out, there is still an important piece of the puzzle still missing.
I really liked The Black Echo for a number of reasons. First, the plot has numerous twists and turns, and shows Bosch's genius as a detective and Connelly's talent as a writer. In this book, we get a look at Bosch's background, which helps explain his motivations in later books. Also, The Black Echo takes place during a Memorial Day weekend. Since I read it over the same weekend, it made it more relevant.
I don't give many mysteries a 5 star rating, but The Black Echo is well deserving. Not only is it a very strong start to a great series, but it has become one of my Connelly favorites.
on January 19, 2001
Every now and then you read a book that announces the presence of an excellent new writer. These are great discoveries that are to be savoured: I get a shiver and my heart races with excitement each time it happens. The book cries out to be read slowly and enjoyed, but you just want to rip through it to see how it ends. Then you read the book again and again, just for the sheer enjoyment. "The Hunt for Red October" was one such book; "The Eye of the World" another. "The Black Echo" is a third. Michael Connelly's debut effort has to be one of the very best books I have ever read, and certainly one of the best detective fiction books out there.
Connelly has an excellent eye for describing real life: his scenes are gritty and intoxicatingly detailed and his ear for dialogue is superb. His characters are memorable; writing with the benefit of hindsight, the Harry Bosch series has proved to be a modern classic. The old adage is "write what you know about". Connelly knows crime (he was a newspaper crime reporter) and he knows LA; like the back of his hand. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story. Stick through his next, "The Black Ice", which is very good but not as good as this, and then move into "Concrete Blonde" and "The Last Coyote", which are also superb.
My reaction to this novel was a bit of a surprise to me. Normally for me, it's a given that if I don't really like the main character, I won't like the novel itself. This book sort of turned that on its head as I did like the novel itself but didn't care for the main character all that much.
The novel is an interesting and well-plotted police procedural. The discovery of a body that seems to be that of a drug addict who overdosed turns up a very elaborate and involved mystery. I found the mystery to be rather inventive and fascinating in and of itself. It's difficult to discuss the mystery without giving too much away but suffice it to say that Harry Bosch knew the victim in Vietnam and that this past comes very much into play.
As for Harry Bosch, I just could never see him as more than a cliched character. He's what I tend to think of as the typical go-it-alone cop with a tortured past. I didn't actively dislike him, but I didn't find him interesting either. It seemed to me that for as original as the mystery was, Bosch himself was one of the most unoriginal characters I've ever encountered in a mystery novel.
I also felt that the portrayal of the internal affairs officers was cliched as well. I understand that the men and women who work in internal affairs are generally disliked by other police officers, but what I would really be interested in seeing is a novel that gives a more balanced view of the men and women who do what must be an exceedingly difficult job. Connelly's IAD cops are so ridiculous as to be little more than caricatures and the author even goes so far as to give the two of them the ludicrous names of Lewis and Clarke. Of course, this results in excessive poking of fun at their names. The portrayal of their boss wasn't any better, really, and I never understood exactly why he had it in for Bosch. I don't find the idea of cops trying to bring about the downfall of others cops a bad plot device--indeed, Elizabeth George uses it to great effect in her Lynley novels--,but there has to be a clear idea of just why the cops hate one another.
Lastly, I can't help but nitpick when it comes to the dialog. The characters have a tendency to speak without use of contractions, and this rendered the dialog so stilting at times that it jolted me right out of the story. Normal people use contractions all the time, and in order for a written conversation to sound authentic, it really needs to follow the conventions of normal speech. Not so here. It was as if the characters were trying to play act at being characters from a Jane Austen novel or something.
on February 25, 2001
I became a mystery lover as a teenager reading Sherlock Holmes. Over the years, I've mostly stuck with English "country house" mysteries. Besides Doyle, I've read lots of books by Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Catherine Aird, Patricia Moyes, Margery Allingham, Anne Perry and others. I've generally stayed away from gritty, modern day, big city detective stories. More recently, however, I've begun to branch out more widely. A year or two ago, I got a copy of "The Black Echo" on the recommendation of a friend. After buying it, I had second thoughts and it sat on my shelf for quite a while. Finally, I decided to give it a shot. Surprise! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Harry Bosch is gritty, clever, insightful, and too irascible for his own good. He's just a little too outspoken and seems always to be in trouble with his superiors (nobody is stupid or tactless enough to expect to get away with provoking people like this guy does). Further, I hate to think that law enforcement people really spend as much time obstructing each other as they do here. No crimes would ever be solved.
That aside, though, this is a good story. The plot is intricate and develops relentlessly. The characters are well-drawn and Connelly knows the details of police work. Things start quickly and the book is hard to put down. I'm looking forward to reading more of Connelly's books. This one gets four stars -- only because it's not, after all, Doyle and because it's the first book by Connelly I've read. I have to leave room in case he can do even better. It's really 4+ stars.
on January 30, 2000
Just finished reading Michael Connelly's "The Black Echo". Being able to sit down and read the last 100 or so pages today made getting snowed in worthwhile. Another in a growing line of excellent efforts by this author, and just what I needed after the last (dismal) book I read ("Southern Cross" by Patricia Cornwell). Unlike that book, this one had an interesting, grab-you-by-the-throat-and-never-let-you-go story line; believable, well-defined characters; and an ending that wasn't telegraphed chapters before it came. This was a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the murder mystery/police investigation genre.
on March 9, 2000
I found this book online and ordered it, little did i know that i would start one of the greatest series i have ever read. Harry Bosch is an incredible character. Any fans of Chandler would love this. I have read all six Bosch novels and feel like Harry is a friend. If you like series and police procedurals pick this one up first. CONNELLY ROCKS!
on January 18, 1997
Michael Connelly's debut, which won the Edgar Award for Best 1st Novel, is an engrossing mystery in the tradition of
updated L.A. noir. It begins when near-burnout detective
Harry Bosch is called on to investigate the death of a
smackhead found in a drainage pipe. Turns out the dead junkie is an old war buddy of Harry's. Other facts about the apparent O.D. begin to bother the lone-wolf detective, and what begins as a routine inquiry turns into a convoluted mystery involving the FBI, the Internal Affairs Division of the LAPD, and old secrets from 'Nam.
Connelly uses a wealth of authentic detail and an intricate-but-never-incomprehensible plot to great effect,
but the book is hampered by hackneyed characterizations and verbosity. In fact, Connelly's over-writing telegraphs many of the surprises of the story, especially when he tries to portray Bosch's thought-processes on the verge of discovery. Bosch's mullings circle important clues again and again, in Connelly's attempt at a kind of angst, until the reader wants to reach into the book and scream the all-too-obvious conclusions at the detective. The book could have been cut by a fourth without losing anything, and the cuts would have strengthened the tautness the mystery's spine.
The character of Bosch himself is not particularly vibrant or inventive, conforming to all the cliches of the genre of wounded, lone-wolf detectives whose only saving graces consist of a plodding perseverance and a kind of reckless courage, although there is an interesting attempt to elevate Bosch's woundedness to a kind of metaphor involving a Hopper painting and the artist who is Bosch's namesake. The other characters are, for the most part, even flatter.
Given that this is 1st novel, however, it is a promising one, especially in its detailed authenticity, and I would recommend it as a starting place for anyone interested in contemporary LA police procedurals.