RARA-AVIS: Connelly's The Black Echo

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 11 Sep 2002

I remember really enjoying Michael Connelly's first book, and first Harry Bosch book, THE BLACK ECHO (1992). I reread it for procedurals month. It's a busy week in the life of Harry Bosch, homicide detective, and there are lots of details about autopsies, crime scenes, how police stations work, bugs, etc. There's a lot about Bosch's private life, but it's all tangled up in the case. All the police work he does is shown to the reader, but it's nothing like a Sjowall/Wahloo book. It's a police thriller with a noir hero at the centre. Bosch is no upright noble knight, but more of a guy trapped in nightmares and history who's hemmed in on all sides but keeps trying to find some justice and truth.

He's also a cliche, and Connelly has Bosch think about that one night when he's sitting at home, depressed, drinking booze and listening to jazz. The heist that's behind everything seems original, but it's based on a real event. Bosch's sweaty nightmares, the Vietnam background that he can't escape, his lieutenant that hates him, the Internal Affairs guys that follow him on their spare time, it's all stuff you've seen before. Connelly pulls it off, though, and brings things to a big finish with lots of twists. Connelly really knows how to keep you in knots as the end gets close.

Rereading it I noticed some holes, but I can't fault Connelly too much for a few in his first book. One thing that does bug me is that Bosch's position in his department, and what happens at the heist at the end, don't seem at all realistic. Perhaps someone with experience can comment. Something like this wouldn't be too far out of place in this book:

     "Someone's going to try to kill the mayor," Bosch said. "I've
   got a rifle, targets made up to look like the mayor at a range
   set up in the woods, and a note that says, 'I'm going to kill the
     "You're a cowboy, Bosch," the lieutenant said, grimacing. "You
   don't fit in."
     "We've had three anonymous phone calls today from a guy saying
   he's going to shoot the mayor when he goes to the Hollywood Bowl
   tonight. He said he'd be wearing a purple hat."
     "I don't like you, Bosch, and some day I'm going to bust you
   back down to handing out traffic tickets. But I guess if you
   don't have anything better to do you can take Toothless Johnson
   and keep an eye on things, just in case."

Here's a quote from when Bosch is in Special Agent Eleanor Wish's apartment:

| The two top shelves were mostly high-brow book-of-the-month offerings
| descending into crime fiction by writers like Crumley and Willeford
| and others. He had read some of them. He opened the glass door
| and pulled out a book called THE LOCKED DOOR. He'd heard of it but
| had never seen it to buy.

What book would this be? I found one by that title by an Edna Roughley, from 1948, but a book set in a mission on a Papuan island doesn't seem to fit.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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