Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Black Echo: Michael Connelly, August 1—September 9, 2013
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Detective Harry Bosch makes his debut in The Black Echo in which the Vietnam veteran investigates the murder of one of his fellow ‘tunnel rats’ and is soon seconded to the FBI to work with the lovely Special Agent Eleanor Wish on the case.
Bosch does take a little while to find his feet but by the end of the book, his character is more settled and comfortable. He is furnished with multiple backstories which adds depth and realism. In particular, the varying interpretations of the other characters of the events of the Dollmaker case, in which Bosch shot a guilty but ultimately unarmed man, lead to continual reanalysis of the series lead.
Eleanor Wish is a likeable supporting lead as Bosch’s partner. She, too, has a backstory which we glimpse at a number of times and she is more than just a sounding board or token dialogue machine. She has a personality of her own, doesn’t like Bosch smoking and a strong sense of duty which we see in Sharkey’s hotel room.
With so much made of his being unfeeling, Bosch’s romance with Wish is not just a cliché, but quite implausible and forced. It doesn’t rest easy and seems altogether unnecessary. Having said that, Connelly makes an effort to justify the developments between two lonely individuals and by not dwelling too often or too long on the subject, just about gets away with it.
Irving, Edgar and in particular Pounds all have the potential to be stand-out recurring characters in the series. With so much time rightly spent shaping Bosch, these guys are forgotten a little bit. Hopefully Connelly will draw them out as the series continues as they each have potential.
The investigation itself is disappointing. All of the characters could have flourished more with better material, but sadly the mystery is a let-down. Despite its presentation, the case isn’t complex and is, to a greater or lesser extent, cracked relatively soon with focus switched to apprehending the unknown bandits, whose identity matters very little. The pace is unsettled and jumpy, going from one extreme to the other. When Bosch and Wish aren’t racing off in their car to follow up leads that are difficult to understand, they’re spending time considering, pondering and re-hashing what we already know.
The latter stages of the book are the best, and there are some genuinely surprising twists but there’s just too much perseverance required in between.
The saving grace, though, is the IAD investigation by Lewis and Clark. Once they’d finished making me conjure mental images of Lois Lane and Clark Kent stalking their way through Beverley Hills with their names, they became part of a sub-plot that was in equal measure interesting, entertaining and frustrating for all the right reasons. This extra dimension was essential to keep some action going somewhere and the inclusion of this storyline was excellent for Bosch’s character development too.
We come to the end of The Black Echo exhausted and Bosch’s debut will inevitably be compared with Mickey Haller’s first outings in The Lincoln Lawyer and The Brass Verdict which were far superior. But Connelly is just getting to grips with this complex, haunted character and handles him far better by the dénouement, which closes perfectly. This is an essential starting point for Bosch’s story that will just keep getting better.