Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch mystery, Echo Park, is just about as good as it gets. I am amazed at the consistent high quality of Connelly's writing.
In 1993, Connelly was assigned the case of Marie Gesto, a young lady who disappeared on her way to a riding stable. Her body was never found, no suspect was ever identified, and the unsolved case continues to haunt Bosch (an LAPD detective now working in their Open-Unsolved Unit). In 2006, Raynard Waits is driving a van in Echo Park at 2:00 AM when he is stopped by the LAPD. Trash bags are discovered in his van that contain the body parts of two women. In an effort to avoid the death penalty, Waits wants to make a deal and confess to the murders of nine other individuals--including Marie Gesto. But Bosch isn't convinced that Waits murdered Gesto and things go terribly awry.
Politics play a big role in Echo Park. Richard "Ricochet" O'Shea is a prosecutor running for district attorney. He's trying to use the Waits' case as a publicity stunt. When things go bad, he tries to blame the LAPD. The now retired assistant police commissioner and Bosch nemesis, Irvin Irving, is running for city council. He blames Bosch for his forced retirement and takes potshots at him in the press. Anytime politicians get involved, there seem to be bribes, cover-ups, blaming, and sacrifices that will benefit themselves.
In Echo Park, FBI agent Rachel Walling (of The Poet and The Narrows) returns. Although not part of the official investigation, Walling still offers her expertise as a former psychological profiler. She also helps to keep Bosch on an even keel and provides a romantic twist.
My only criticism of Echo Park is that the political angle plays such a prominent part in this book, but then fizzles at the end. We never learn if O'Shea and Irving are elected to higher office, or not. Otherwise, I would have given Echo Park five stars.
Here's a book about feeding the dog, meaning that though each of us have competing desires and self-imposed limitations, we choose which part of our character to "feed", we draw the lines that we will refuse to cross. Mr. Connelly's finest creation, Detective Bosch, is one of those rare members of our society who are tasked with forming and testing assumptions regarding the limits of individuals. As we learn in short order in any mystery, you just never know what someone may be capable of--but Bosch does. Society has vested in Bosch the power to judge--not to convict or sentence, but to judge, a rather fine distinction. For this reason Connelly can set Bosch free; indeed, Bosch does much better work when he is unencumbered by rules, relationships and regulations. In Echo Park, we learn yet again that Bosch's judgment is not to be trifled with. More significantly, Bosch has become a much stronger character, more confident in his judgment and actions.
Connelly writes a multi-dimensional mystery. There are always several things going on at once; indeed, some threads continue from book to book. In short, Connelly makes excellent use of the rich history upon which he can draw from the former volumes in the series. And, I noted that our author must have plenty of free time to scope out the local restaurants; he's grown weary of Phillipe's.
Connelly remains at the top of his form and this work shows no hints of the slacking off that so often (and regrettably) takes place when the shelf holding an author's published works starts to creak under the weight. In this book we see how the power of choice makes all the difference--to say more risks spoiling a great read, but suffice it to say that we have the power to overcome any difficulty if we choose to do so. Or, we can choose to give in to our weaknesses and ruin everything. Connelly seems to me to be fascinated by our ability to act within a certain sphere--regardless of our perceived power, our actions always have so much more to say and so much more impact than we can imagine.
This author's gift is to take simple but powerful themes and invest them with new life and meaning by way of particularly adept characterizations; his books are literally a character study. For example, by way of a minor cameo appearance we are again reassured that the Chief of Police is honorable and that the LAPD is under sound direction: Bosch is trying to sneak into an ER with the Chief's entourage, an annoying gate keeper tries to block Bosch by pointing out that he does not belong, however, the Chief shuts down the gatekeeper and renders support to his officers, including Bosch, in a very simple but satisfying exchange. Though but a cameo, you feel as if you know the Chief's character. That our author can do so much with so little highlights the complexity of his creation in the character of Bosch, of whom Mr. Connelly has had numerous volumes to develop.
Very highly recommended.
on October 9, 2006
Over the past six months I have read nearly every Michael Connelly book with both my own personal attention to the study of the craft of writing, and for my overall amusement and entertainment. Echo Park is the first book that I have been waiting for from this distinguished author who has raised the literary bar for those writers who concentrate in the suspense/thriller genre'. In Echo Park, Michael Connelly delievers a terrific continuation of the Harry Bosch 'movement' with deliberate and flawless attention and consistancy to character development and plot line in juxtaposition to setting, thematic, and character profile.
What is amazing in Connelly's writing of Bosch in this informative and clever novel is how the author brings the reader into the head and heart of the protagonist in such a way that the reader feels their own heart racing, hair standing straight up, pins dagging into your spin, as you too question if Bosch errored in ways regarding the investigation of a murder years earlier that perhaps somehow allowed for more innocent lives to be victemized by a serial killer.
This is one of Connelly's best so far, and by far my favorite in the Harry Bosch series. What is clear is that Michael Connelly continues to wrap his hands magnificantly on the craft of storytelling, combining historical fact and 'truthisms' in the creation of the fiction world Harry Bosch navigates thru. Educational, pulsating, page-turning, Michael Connelly does a wonderful job bringing the reader to Echo Park.
on December 18, 2006
In Echo Park, Michael Connelly's eighteenth novel, Detective Harry Bosch works a thirteen year old case - The abduction and assumed murder of twenty-two year old Marie Gesto. The story opens with a flash back to 1993 where Bosch and his then partner Jerry Edgars discover the victims car in a garage assigned to an vacant apartment in a Hollywood landmark.
They never found Marie Gesto and her case became one of Bosch's cause celebre cases, reviewing the case from time to time. This seems to something Bosch seems do with regularity, having taken other so-called cold cases under his wing. Anyway, the cold case of de jour for this story was the Gesto case, which becomes part of a serial murderer's confession in a plea agreement.
This doesn't sit well with Bosch, since he had pegged another individual as the perp. As the story plays out Bosch's suspicions are substantiated. On a field trip to disinter Gesto's remains, The serial killer, Raynard Waits, grabs a detective's gun killing him and another police officer, then wounds Bosch's present partner, Kiz Rider. The fact that his partner is critically wounded, keeps Bosch from pursuing Waits allowing the serial killer to escape.
In his efforts to gain an understanding of the Waits, Bosch calls Rachel Walling, an FBI agent and former profiler he cooperated with in the past. She becomes loosely involved in the investigation and as in the past, the two became romantically involved.
As in the past it was a mistake, on both Bosch's and Connelly's part. Connelly, a great mystery writer, is no romance writer. He's as awkward and clumsy at romance as is his protagonist.
Having read all eighteen novels that Michael Connelly has written, I am usually at the head of the line singing his praises. There is no doubt that is a talented story teller and writer. His writing flows naturally, is easily understood and isn't flowery. Personally I hate it when a writer's goal seems be more to confuse you than inform and entertain you. That type of writer should write poetry instead of prose.
That said, I can't say that I felt Echo Park was one of Connelly's better books. Indeed it is a page turner and I went through the book with speed but part of that can be attributable to his excellent writing style as much as content. While I was thoroughly involved in the story while I was reading it, ultimately I was left with an empty, unsatisfied feeling. I thought the ending, for the sake of misdirection, was not only manufactured but weak as well. Earlier, the tie to a mediaeval tale of Reynard the Fox, out of the blue, didn't grab me, and many of Bosch's investigative suppositions were, frankly, a stretch.
The truth is, and this is my own personal opinion, while I was reading the story, I felt the whole plot was contrived. Maybe after a dozen or so novels, my hero Hieronymus Bosch, is beginning to get tiresome. In reality he is far from a knight in shinning armor. His romantic relationships are a disaster; he's self-centered and operates on the fringe of accepted procedure. That's okay for an occasional exception but has become Bosch's mantra - his M.O. Final rating 3.4 stars.
on January 28, 2007
True, I'm a fan. Michael is one of the best crime writers around (THE BEST - if you ask me, but you know what they say, don't always compare)
Also he is much more than that. This is literature of the highest quality. Although I love all of Michael's books, this one stands out since it goes so deep. Not because it deals with a killer on the run, dirty politics, an unsolved murder case, the beloved hero-cop Harry Bosch.
When Michael writes down his images, you are there with him, in the dirt, amidst the danger, but also - and most important, you get to share his humanity, Kiz' one second of shock/doubt to pull the trigger, which almost has her killed - Bosch's getting whacked by his superior officer, anything. I will even go as far as this: by showing us such intimate close-ups of his characters Michael reaches out to us, makes us think twice before we spit out our usual know-it-all judgements. That's what makes him special. And of course his style, edgy, journalistic.
When Bosch is walking down the street, making love to his maybe girlfriend, trying to bring justice back onto the city streets and into politics, Michael is not painting a picture, he's changing our lives. TERRIFIC!!!
Settling in with a new Harry Bosch book by Michael Connelly is like getting together with an old, close friend you haven't seen in a long while. Harry is still with LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit along with his partner, Kiz Ridder. Returning to the police force after a short, unsatisfying retirement, Harry still looks at cases from long ago, cases that he had a hand in, but were never solved.
One of these files concerns Marie Gesto, a 22 year old woman, who disappeared in 1993. Her car was found in an apartment garage, her clothes neatly folded and stacked on the front seat. The case has bothered Harry for 13 years,
Now there's a break: Reynard Waits was stopped for a traffic violation in the Echo Park area. The officers spotted a plastic bag dripping blood and arrested him. The dismembered remains of two young women were stuffed in the bag. Reynard Waits, through his eminent criminal defense attorney, Maury Swann, has struck a deal with the fast-rising, ambitious prosecutor Rick O'Shea. Waits will lead officers to the body of Marie Gesto and seven other murder victims in return for life in prison instead of a death sentence.
This doesn't sit well with Bosch, who is a smart, cynical, jaded cop out for justice. But Harry will follow orders. Taken to a remote site, Waits leads a police team to the burial place of Marie Gesto - and then escapes, killing two officers and wounding Kiz Ridder, Harry's partner.
Now the real chase begins. Harry suspects a set-up. The prosecutor, who is running for District Attorney, is a prime suspect in Harry's mind, especially so when Harry learns that he has taken campaign contributions from one of the sleazier guys in town, a man whose son Harry had pegged for the Gesto murder more than a dozen years ago.
Waits has kidnapped another woman and Harry is desperate to find him before he murders again. Along for the ride is Rachael Walling, an FBI agent who was once a criminal profiler.
Things start getting sticky. It looks like Harry's partner - and Harry - missed a major clue in 1993 that might have led them to Waits before he murdered seven more women. But nothing feels right to Harry. There's something wrong.
Much of the book is taken up with Harry's very intensive investigation of Waits who is more than meets the eye; the shifting suspicions of who is corrupt; Harry's relationship with Walling. There's not a dull page in this book, maybe not even a dull paragraph. Connelly keeps the action moving as Harry turns one rock over after another. To say more would give away too much of the story and I'm not about to do that.
Heavy readers will be amused by Connelly's affectation of giving minor characters the names of other genre authors, like Duane Swierczynski, who has written an excellent noir thriller "The Wheelman".
If you like police procedurals, you'll love Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch. If you simply enjoy good, suspenseful writing, you'll love them as well.
One of the strong character traits of Michael Connelly's long-time fictional cop hero, Harry Bosch is a tendency to brood about the past. In "Echo Park", his latest, Harry is still a part of the LAPD's cold case unit. We learn of Marie Gesto, missing and presumed dead for years, one of Harry's old cases. Her clothing was found, her body never was. She's never been far from Harry's mind and he's gone back to her case several times over the years, with no breaks. Now, she's linked to Reynard Waits, who has been arrested with body parts found in his car.
The resulting investigation of Waits' activities, and political intrigue within the department that has long treated Bosch as a kind of pariah follow the twists and turns that we've come to expect from Connelly, who is a consummate story teller. Rachel Walling of the FBI and Harry's long-time partner, Kiz Rider, both make important contributions to the story, but the circumstances, the intrigue, and the sadness are all signature Bosch.
Another great outing from Connelly, who is my favorite fictional author now, and has been for some time. Set aside some time, you'll want to read this in a single outing!
on October 12, 2006
If you're a true mystery/thriller fan Harry Bosch is a must. Along with George Pelacanos, Michael Connelly is at the top of the game. Steady plotting, great storylines, strong character background and pacing that never lets up.
With this one I like the fact that Harry is back on the force. As a haunted, gifted detective he has all the requirements for a character you have to care about. Every cop has the one that got away and Harry is no different, but the way he suffers over his failures is part of the reason readers care so much about him, he is human, far from perfect but he cares about what he does, to an obsession.
Read and enjoy, but avoid my mistake and take a few days to savor it, now that I've finished, I'm already anxious for the next.
on October 13, 2006
Few in the trade have Connelly's juice these days. His books are Top 10 staples (this should be his second straight #1), and they have some staying power. He's surpassed Parker in both laydown size and run time, which is no mean feat; and become a true heavyweight, genre not withstanding.
Of course, Connelly's most-loved creation is Harry Bosch, evangelist of truth. Head down, shoulders back, loins girded, he is the Everyman avenger. He speaks for those of us that can't, to a system geared to shut out such noise. As longtime readers know, "everyone counts, or no one counts." The philosophy by which Bosch has always been driven, is the reason he's so at home in his current assignment, the Open/Unsolved division of the LAPD.
In Echo Park, Bosch is back into a case he never really left alone, the 1993 murder of Marie Gesto. It's one of the cases that haunted Bosch to the point when he left the force briefly (a period recounted in Lost Light and The Narrows), he copied the file and worked the case as a citizen. It was now in his regular rotation of unsolved cases to review and suffer over. So much so that a suspect in the case acquired a restraining order against Bosch's later inquires.
So when he gets a call from another division, and is informed of a confession, the game is on. Harry and his partner, the mighty Kiz Rider head over to another division and interview one Reynard Waits. The confession is the story of a serial killer in bloom--from random attack and kill during the LA Riots, to the abduction and murder of Marie Gesto, to finally a much more organized series of killings.
As Bosch begins to dig into the case file's newest elements, an archival report is discovered in the official case file that casts serious doubt onto the thoroughness of Bosch's original investigation. Like Bosch needs any more weight on his shoulders, right? Not only that, but the confessor, Reynard Waits, is willing to take Bosch to the one thing he could never find; the remains of Marie Gesto. At this point, Bosch is doubting everything, including his own instincts.
During an elaborately-planned excursion into the woods, there is, as you might expect, trouble, and Waits escapes into those woods.
Connelly puts Bosch through about every kind of wringer you can imagine in Echo Park, and to great effect. One of the things I love about the guy is the way he just hammers his way through both of the key protagonists in his life; the suspects, and the bureaucracy. Both forces conspire to keep Bosch from his mission, making sure everyone counts. So we as reader's see Bosch's struggle on both sides dragging him down, eroding his instincts, testing his faith.
In Echo Park, he's aided by FBI agent Rachel Walling, who has become a staple in Connelly's world. First encountered in The Poet, the well-traveled agent is now based in LA, and her past with Harry brings her into the action as confidante. She also brings some welcome light into Harry's life. Because God knows he needs some.
If there is light, there must be darkness, and in Raynard Waits, Connelly delivers another black hole of depravity, right up there with Robert (The Poet) Backus. As Harry and Rachel track him down, I felt the despair created by Waits' evil.
Connelly uses the story elements here to really make a stand about where Harry is now. Everything from his Viet Nam tunnel-rat days to his eternal nemesis, the hated Irvin Irving, is woven into the proceedings to wind up the reader into a knotted rope of anxiety as he builds to a sweaty finish.
Echo Park is largely a journey of self-doubt for Harry Bosch. He is bombarded by it on many fronts, and the way he deals with it results in both success and failure, in large scale.
Connelly has re-defined Bosch with all the qualities and flaws we already knew he had. If that sounds a bit circuitous, it won't after you finish the book. There are also major "series events" that immediately give it a new status quo. A left, then a right.
That's what a heavyweight does....
Well I lost a little sleep because of this page-turner. Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly's haunted, obsessed, obstinate and ornery LAPD detective is back, bringing with him his propensity for often inappropriate feelings of guilt, his ability to rile everyone around him, especially his superiors and co-workers, not to mention any current lover he might have at the time, and his devotion to the "mission" or the "way of the true detective".
This time out Harry, working with his pal Kiz Rider in the Unsolved/Open Case department, has a decade old missing person (presumed murdered) case he had periodically re-opened cross with a current case of a just-by-chance arrest of a serial killer, who has confessed to the murder of the missing girl. It is soon discovered that Harry and his then-partner may have missed a significant detail that might have opened the trail to the killer all those years back. Harry's guilt at the oversight, and his apparent mistaken targeting of another suspect is only the start of a trail that will lead to much nastiness and intrigue.
Connelly keeps his story moving fast and, as mentioned, I found it hard to put down. This should be a delight to the many Bosch fans, but new readers to Connelly's complex and troubled detective should have fun too, as Bosch wrestles with the bureaucracy, politics, and his own inclination to bullheadedly self-destruct. Good read.