Friday, January 21, 2011

The Black Echo

The Black Echo
© 1992 Michael Connelly
375 pages

It's the week before Memorial Day 1991 in Los Angeles, the city of stars, urban street gangs, and smog -- and Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch has been called in on a Sunday to check out a possible overdose in a pipe. It's just a quick job: all he needs to do it is confirm the initial suspicions. If Harry's partner had been called to the pipe, or any other officer, that might have been the end of it -- but Harry takes his job seriously and notices the little details that others would ignore for convenience's sake. He notices the lack of tracks leading into the tunnel, the unusually pure heroin ingested by the dead man, the indications in the pattern of how his clothing is arranged that indicate he was drugged and dragged in This is no accidental overdose. This is murder.

But who would murder this man, a shiftless Vietnam veteran who has drifted from job to job in the twenty years since the end of the war? Driven by duty -- both to the badge and to a former comrade -- Harry digs in, annoying his fellow police officers who see only another broken veteran who sought release in a drug that killed him. That's not unusual for Harry, who is an excellent detective but a miserable police officer. Once he's committed to a task, he has little patience for rules or people who get in the way. Harry is a perpetual outsider who pains those who work with him,, a grizzled lone wolf, a man on a quest ---- and that quest links his case to a bank robbery in which the culprits used Los Angeles' vast system of underground flood-control tunnnels to dig inside the bank's vaults.  A year later, the FBI is still looking -- but now, they and Harry join forces. They must work quickly, because the thieves may strike again come the weekend.

This is my first time reading Michael Connelly, and I rather enjoyed the experience. I suppose the world-weary police veteran with a hidden heart of gold is a familar character,  but I like Harry.  The book unfolds through the course of a week, as Harry tries to build his case while battling charges by the grudge-holding department of Internal Affairs, who despise a curmudgeon.  There's a little romance and a lot of plot twists -- so many, in fact, that the last one doesn't emerge until after the actual crime has been taken care of.  There are subtle fragments of evidence woven throughout the book that allow the reader to put the pieces together for him- or herself, without relying on bursts of insight from Bosch.

Perfectly enjoyable book: I liked the gritty detail of it, and the intriacacy of the plot impressed me. I'll be continuing in this series as I'm able.

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