Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Overlook

The Overlook
© 2006/2007 Michael Connelly
240 pages

In the hills above Madonna's former Hollywood Mansion, a physicist named Stanley Kent has just been found dead, neatly executed by masked men. The Hollywood detectives are only more than happy to turn the job over to the "Homicide-Special" division that takes on the bigger jobs, and Harry Bosch is their man. No sooner has he arrived at the scene of the crime and started to gauge the situation for himself, however, than does the FBI show up. Kent is authorized to handle and transport radioactive materials used by hospitals in medical treatments -- but if someone used him to steal those materials and then killed him to take care of a loose end,  it's a fair bet that the killers aren't out to open up a cancer ward in a free clinic somewhere. The FBI is concerned that Kent may have been used by terrorists to obtain materials for a 'dirty bomb', and if that's the case, the entire city of Los Angeles may be in trouble.

The national security angle brings in a host of acronymed government agencies into "Harry's case", but of course he's not impressed by the exciting and sexy world of domestic terrorism.  He's a cynic, a grizzled outsider who refuses to surrender the case completely to their hands, in part because he believes they are ignoring the torture and murder of Kent to chase radioactive materials, and thus headlines and acclaim. The only FBI agent whom he does not openly despise is Rachel Wallers,  his ally of sorts and an old flame.   I finished the book largely in one sitting, owing both to is quick pace and short length: the case is solved in about twelve hours, and the novel itself began as a serialized mystery that was 'substantially expanded' before appearing in bound form. It's still very much on the short side,  but it works as a quick read. The terrorism angle bored me at first, especially when the primary suspects were two Arab men who yelled "Allah Akbar!" before killing Kent (how stereotypical can you get?), but appearances are deceiving and there are more than few twists and turns buried inside.  The Overlook strangely mirrors the Black Echo, not only in the presence of an FBI Love Interest Lady, but in the setting (Hollywood) and in the identity of the ultimate culprit.  This was a weak point for me, but I doubt many other people have managed to read only these two books and immediately following the other. There are at least a dozen other Bosch books, and I figure it's just coincidence.  Only future reads will tell, and there will more -- because I like Bosch.

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