on 23 December 2002
I've been reading the later Harry Bosch novels, and just ran into this one. It probably would've been much better had it been the first Bosch novel I had read, but it's still darn good.
The plot elements have been used before, but they're given a fresh twist here. Harry in this book as in the later ones has three distinct challenges: The case itself, and this is one in which he's coincidentally deeply involved; the continual conflict with the political agendas of superiors which threatens his ability to properly investigate the case; and the dealing with his own deep feelings and realizations, including his awareness that his decisions affect lives of those not directly involved.
While some may find the beginning slow, I find Connelly highly skilled in bringing out important technical aspects of the investigation while interspersing scenes that involve more action.
If you haven't yet read Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch stories, this is the one to start with. And if you have, be sure not to miss this one.
Michael Connelly's first novel introduces us LAPD Detective Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch. Bosch had formerly been a member of the LAPD's elite RHD (Robbery Homicide Division), but roughly a year before this book begins he killed a suspect in the Dollmaker Case. As a result, Bosch was investigated by IAD (the Internal Affairs Department) and was suspended for a month and demoted to robbery-homicide team of the Hollywood Division. As it happens, IAD weren't entirely happy with this outcome, and are waiting for their chance to get Bosch out of the police force altogether. Malicious ? They make the 'real' villains look good.
Bosch proves to be an interesting character. With a reputation as being something of a loner, he's a jazz fan with a taste for coffee, beer and cigarettes. He then served in Vietnam as a Tunnel Rat, before returning home and joining the Police Force.
It's Harry's time as a Tunnel Rat that comes back to haunt him in The Black Echo. The book begins with Harry being called out to Mulholland Dam, where a body's been found in drainage pipe. Dismissed by other officers at the scene as simply another drug user who'd accidentally overdosed - and therefore, not needing any further investigation - Bosch isn't quite so and decides to run with it. Things take a more personal twist when he recognises the corpse as a fellow Tunnel Rat, Billy Meadows. Things start looking more and more like Meadows was murdered - an autopsy seems to indicate he'd been tortured before he died, while a pawn ticket found in Meadows' apartment links him to a major bank heist carried out the previous year. This bank job is officially being investigated by the FBI and, as Bosch believes the men behind the bank job are also behind Meadows' death, he arranges a meeting with Special Agent Eleanor Wish. Harry's intention was to request a sharing of information but he doesn't exactly get what he wants out of the meeting - and things haven't finished going downhill for him.
Connolly's style of writing is excellent - a former Police Reporter with the LA Times, I would assume there is a great deal of accuracy in his portrayal of a homicide investigation. He has created a very likeable character in Harry Bosch, while his descriptions of the city have left me feeling like I know LA. Definitely worth reading !
on 2 October 2012
The first Harry Bosch novel from Michael Connelly and the start of a long-running series. The Black Echo establishes a clear style from Connelly; a rich mixture of no-nonsense detective work and careful character development gives us a thoughtful and fast-paced crime thriller, even the spells of Harry kicking his heels keep us on edge.
Set in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, I found myself inexorably drawn to a local map for reference, as Bosch drives us around the city outskirts from Wilshire to Mulholland Drive and over to Sepulveda, I'm learning my way around quite well. Harry Bosch Tours where are you?
The story is tight. A murder that leads Bosch to an unsolved bank robbery and connections with his past as a Vietnam veteran, all whilst Bosch is himself under the scrutiny of an LAPD internal affairs investigation that seeks to bounce him out of the force. Bosch, once the rising star has fallen far and, whilst he has found a new level, there are those that want him out.
Connelly goes for long-ish chapters that closely track the investigation but with frequent sub-chapter pauses. He doesn't have Bosch as narrator so we can skip to other characters and episodes without Bosch in them, but Bosch is never out of the picture for long. Sex and violence are included, but Connelly doesn't dwell on either, he is more likely to spend time on the intricacies and psychology of a suspect's interrogation.
It is a great debut novel and it doesn't matter if it's your first or latest Harry Bosch. Enjoy.
on 19 March 2015
I picked up a copy of this book for free through a Kindle promotion over the Christmas period, and as I'm a bit of a fan of hardboiled detective stories I finally decided to give it a read. To be honest, I'm having a mixed reaction to this one.
On the one hand it definitely captures the feel of classic hardboiled writers like Chandler, Hammett, et al. The main character, Heironymus 'Harry' Bosch, is strongly reminiscent of his forebears from those other writers' works, and the structure and language of the novel wouldn't be entirely out of place in a 30's or 40's pulp novel. In this respect the book works well, and made it a fun read.
And then there's the not-so-good. There are a few places within the novel where Connelly repeats himself unnecessarily, re-telling us details about Bosch's background that have already been provided earlier in the story, or providing yet another description of Bosch's house on the hill with it's wonderful view. This, along with some aspects of the pace of the novel, mark the book clearly as a first novel, though perhaps this is something that should have been addressed up by the publisher's editors.
All things considered, the negatives I've mentioned aren't bad enough as to make this an unreadable book, and on balance I'd still recommend it to other fans of the hardboiled genre. All in all, a fairly good start to a series.
on 24 April 2015
I'm often a bit wary of American Crime novels as I often think they are stereo typed . . . so how did I find this? Well firstly, remember that this book was written in the period when it was set - it hasn't been written now and set in the 80s, so with that in mind it becomes a bit more of an eye opener on the period. It also helps explain why they actually use the technology of the day in the book!
A typical who dun it novel with quite a few layers leaving the final twist right until the end. My only grumble is the fixation with smoking, but that's a personal thing. The characters are developed well and will no doubt be a good basis for the rest of the books in the series (a lot of them I believe!). No I'm not going to go into the plot except to say it was quite interesting
I'm not that convinced though that I will buy anymore as I'm just not that into these type of stories - no other reason - perhaps if they were all free????
on 28 March 2007
Having read and enjoyed The Lincoln Lawyer I decided to start at the very beginning and read the Harry Bosch books. So the first is the Black Echo. Here we meet Harry and find out about life before the LAPD and how it comes back to haunt him when he finds an old vet he was with in Vietnam murdered and Harry is put on the case. The story follows his investigations through the following week and the relationship with his new partner,Eleanor Wish.
Did I figure out the twist? Kind of! I think I knew it was coming but didnt want it to actually be true.
This book took me ages to read. I seemed to be stuck on the first half of the book for weeks. I just couldnt get involved with it. But then...... bang.... it got me. I read the last 130 pages in 2 hours. Couldnt put it down.
So The Black Echo goes back on the shelf. The Black Ice is sat their waiting. Im going to read something different before I go back and visit Harry.
But I'm missing him already.
on 10 February 2014
Going old school but not in a good way. “Black Echo” is the start of the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. Surprisingly, despite being the origin to such a successful series and career the book is surprisingly weak.
In all honesty there is not much to recommend here. The book suffers heavily from every cliché in the genre. Bosch is the loner cop who plays by his own rules and has his own sense of justice and fairness. We've all seen this before but worst of all, the way Connelly characterizes Bosch, he comes off as an ego maniac who thinks he's the only good cop in the whole city, when, in fact he makes several mistakes in his investigation, displays no instinct or reasoning and is an all around jerk to everyone around him. The book also suffers heavily from the lack of an interesting and compelling case. Bosch is investigating the murder of a Vietnam veteran from his old unit. This should give Connelly the chance to examine the war and its effect on the men, the soldiers thrown back to a regular life they could not cope with. Instead we get some basic stories about Bosch's time as a “tunnel rat” and not much else. Again, surprisingly, Bosch didn't really know the guy all that well and never seems much troubled by his death. He takes the case more like a personal challenge, a way to proof his worth as a cop than as someone out for justice. And the victim was a career criminal and a junkie so... all in all, not really a compelling tale. There's a whole plot about “internal affairs” wanting Bosch's badge but its so badly written its laughable. The AI guys are named Lewis and Clarke and not only are they complete morons, and more goofy than threatening, they have zero personality and they want to ruin Bosch... well because, that's why! Because they're from “Internal Affairs” and Bosch plays by his own rules and is not a part of the “family” and so he has to go... and well internal affairs guys are always... well evil!
The plot is terribly contrived, with huge expositions by characters in the last few pages as Connelly tries to make some sense of the mess of twists and character motivations and not having much success. When characters sit down and start to describe the plot from start to end... well something failed.
The book is also very dated, with typewriters and no Internet or cellphones and while that's not really a flaw, its something that really stands out. Maybe its Connelly's pleasure in describing government databases and how at the time he probably thought it was all so exciting but in 2014 is anything but.
Connelly's writing is decent, clear and concise and there's some effort in trying to at least wink at a sort of noir style. Its a good try but the plot wasn't really appropriate for the genre and after a while Connelly sort of gave up on it.
I should say that this is not really a bad book. Its average but its a somewhat satisfying read with a decent pace. But that's all it is. Average. Decent at best. Ultimately forgettable.
As of the date of this review, Michael Connelly has written and published eighteen fictional novels of which thirteen feature LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. It all began back in 1992 with The Black Echo but if, like many, you have discovered Connelly by way of his more recent stories, then do not for one minute think that back then he was just a beginner learning his trade and his debut novel should be considered with caution. No, quite simply if you like Connelly today then you will like Connelly `then' just as much.
This is despite the fact that it's a tale of events in the early 1990s with heavy references to events of the early 1970s. More specifically, Bosch is a Los Angeles detective turning 40 with powerful memories of his experiences as a tunnel rat in Vietnam some twenty years earlier and from which the title of this novel draws its name. But the drawing of the characters and their relationships with one another is of high quality, a skill which, in my humble opinion, only a minority of Connelly's peers in the field of crime thrillers pull off as successfully as he does. In any thriller series this is the element that probably defines success or failure more than any other, and since Connelly has been writing tales surrounding Bosch for over fifteen years, it's safe to assume that he's cracked this difficult task and he demonstrates this from the word go in his debut novel.
Having already read the outstanding Concrete Blonde (the third in the Bosch series) it's sometimes amusing to read the occasional mentions of the career-defining experiences of the case built around the pursuit of the Dollmaker; amusing because Connelly decided never to write the story itself, yet the events of that case are cleverly used to help shape our understanding of Bosch's personality in small doses in The Black Echo and I am sure that he always planned to build a story around it for The Concrete Blonde two years later. To me that says much about the forward-thinking, the creativity and the plain confidence of the author.
It's easy to summarise this story's plot - the body of a man is found and Bosch, by chance, is assigned to the case to find the man's killer or killers. It's not long before Bosch brings about an association with the dead man (a Vietnam tunnel rat who worked with Bosch two decades earlier) to an audacious bank robbery the previous summer and a similar heist that is planned for the imminent future. Bosch has it all figured out, and has to solve all this is in the midst of an Internal Affairs investigation coupled with high-level corruption among those who might have a vested interest in the two bank robberies. The story covers about one week, my one criticism being the absence of any chapters and the use, instead, of rather long `parts' which for people like myself who often read books in snatches of thirty minutes at a time, can be slightly irritating. Anyone who invests lengthy periods of time to reading won't mind at all, I'm sure.
All I can say as a lover of crime fiction and a fan of good series creators such as Val McDermid, John Connolly, Mo Hayder and Mark Billingham (and the owner of pretty much everything written by Deaver, Cornwell, Slaughter, Reichs, Gerritsen, Coben, Rankin and Child), is that Michael Connelly is surely and deservedly right up there with the best of them and this debut novel is a must-read for anyone who has read and enjoyed his more recent work. It's real quality.
on 19 January 2015
Until about fifteen years ago I used to devour American crime novels, rushing through one after another with a fairly voracious appetite. But then something happened. I don't know what - I wish I did - but suddenly I found it very difficult ever to complete one.
I was, then, pleasantly surprised by 'The Black Echo', the first novel to feature Harry 'Hieronymous' Bosch, jaded homicide detective and Vietnam War veteran. Called to the site of a mysterious death, Bosch recognises the corpse as someone with whom he served in Vietnam, some twenty years previously. The body had been found in a reservoir overflow pipe near the Mulholland Dam, and the initial diagnosis suggests that this is merely another instance of a dysfunctional Vietnam veteran meeting their death through drug addiction.
Bosch could so easily have been a disastrously clichéd character himself. Having been discharged form the army he had entered LAPD and gradually risen to the Homicide Team. As the novel opens, though, we start to learn that his career has had as many downs as ups. He had been instrumental in capturing a serial killer, which had led to a local TV station paying him a fee to use his name for a sensationalist series, but his fatal shooting of a criminal in another incident had led to him being investigated at length by Internal Affairs. All this sounds rather familiar - just another disgruntled, unorthodox detective. Connelly does, however, succeed in retaining Bosch's credibility.
This novel also strays across different genres - while Bosch's unconventional thought processes drives the investigation forward, the book also falls soundly into police procedural territory. Yet Connelly also offers a frightening insight into the work of many of the American troops in Vietnam who literally fought underground. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army used hundreds of miles of tunnels through the combat zones, and teams of American troops would be sent down to try to destroy them, often finding themselves in horrific combat beneath the ground. Connelly marshalls all of this with great dexterity, all the more remarkable as this was his first novel.
I shall definitely be looking forward to reading more about Hieronymous Bosch.
Everyone is certain that it is a simple drug overdose. After all, the victim was in a drain pipe in Hollywood and had scars from older drug marks on his arms. The case can be closed quickly, which is a good things since it’s Sunday, and everyone wants to get back to their lives.
Everyone, that is, but LAPD detective Harry Bosch. The scene looks too neat, and some of the evidence just doesn’t seem to fit the scene that everyone else is ready to believe. And then Bosch is shocked to realize that he knows the victim. He and Billy Meadows were both tunnel rats during the Vietnam War. With a personal connection to the case, Bosch starts digging and poking and coming up with more clues that don’t fit the scene. What was Meadows involved in that got him killed?
Having enjoyed four of the five Lincoln Lawyer novels, I decided it was time to backtrack and read the first of the Harry Bosch books. While I enjoyed it, it did have some flaws. First, I do find Bosch a hard character to warm up to. I like him enough to want to see him succeed, but he is a bit prickly. Secondly, I felt that a few of the things that happened were predictable, including a major plot point I saw coming a good chunk of the book before Bosch figured it out.
I really did enjoy the book overall. There are enough layers to the plot that it is always moving forward. Bosch has enough back story to be interesting and it is given to us in small enough doses that it doesn’t slow down the book. It was darker than I normally like, but I found it worth reading.
So if, like me, you have missed these books, it’s not too late to start reading them. While not perfect, this is a great first book you’ll be sure to enjoy.