In Echo Park, you're there, cracking the case
Ever since the publication of his first novel, The Black Echo, in 1992, Michael Connelly has produced some of the finest work the mystery genre has seen - novels of distinction that not only succeed as rousing stories of suspense and intrigue, but that also form a virtual biography of a city, a social history of Los Angeles as seen through the ideas of a simple, yet extraordinary man.
Through the years of O.J. and the riots, the ups and downs of the Dodgers and Lakers, the Northridge Quake and the Night Stalker, the story of Detective Harry Bosch has unfolded against the backdrop of this magical, but troubled city. During that time, Bosch has developed into one of the richest and most compelling characters in crime fiction - or any fiction, for that matter.
Bosch is a man defined by his contrasts, who brings answers to others, but is constantly plagued by doubt. A public servant insubordinate to the establishment, yet fiercely loyal to the victims of crime. A detective who helps others find peace, but who knows nothing in this life but trouble.
For the 12th novel in the Bosch series, Connelly has chosen a name - Echo Park - that is evocative of the series' opener, and in many ways we can see the detective coming full circle. He is back working for the LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide division, tracking down "cold cases," crimes that have lingered unsolved, often for many years.
Bosch has also once again found romance with a female FBI agent, a relationship that has little more chance for success than his prior liaison with an agent more than a decade earlier. That previous romance brought marriage and parenthood, but wife and child are gone now, living halfway around the world. Bosch once again is alone.
His personal life remains a vacuum, cold and empty, the only fire inside him burning for his mission, the one thing that keeps bringing him back from the abyss. Bosch has dedicated himself to speaking for the dead, giving a voice to those who no longer have one, and bringing their killers to justice.
One of those victims has lingered in his thoughts for more than a decade: a young woman whose murder he originally investigated but could not solve. Now it appears that the killer has been caught, and he's ready to admit to everything as part of a plea bargain to escape the death penalty. Bosch finds no closure in this trade-off, and suspects that the confession is as hollow as the deal.
As he starts to pluck at the strings holding the case together, Bosch learns more and more about what is really going on. He eventually learns more than he wanted to know when he uncovers a crucial clue that he missed all of those years before, a clue that might have led to an arrest that would have saved several lives.
As is the case with all of Connelly's work, the plot is exquisitely drawn, a finely wrought and intricate story of detection and police procedure that is so good it would almost make you think that the author was right there in the car with the detectives.
Along with plot, Connelly also excels at creating a taut and engrossing narrative, telling his story in simple, but compelling fashion. He leaves the narrative unadorned, never indulging in verbose language or flowery prose. Even so, his writing never fails to paint a full and lush picture, both of the story's setting and its characters.
It is in those two areas, in particular, that this writer's work truly shines. No one has ever written about the city of Los Angeles with as sharp yet loving an eye as this former journalist does. And it is through the eyes of his characters, particularly the immortal Harry Bosch, that he unveils this rich tapestry. Among contemporary crime writers, Connelly is, quite simply, the best of the best.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 29, 2006