Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting characters and a mostly strong story
Cons: Bosch’s character and a few clichés in the plot
The Bottom Line:
Start of a career
Definitely has some flaws
Still strong, shows promise

Black Echoes from the Past

I’m almost caught up on Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer novels, but I decided it was time to backtrack and listen to his very first novel.  Yes, I grabbed the audio book from my library recently and listened to The Black Echo while in the car.  While the book does have a few flaws, it sure did make the hours pass by.

Everyone is certain that it is a simple drug overdose.  After all, the victim was in a drain pipe in Hollywood and had scars from older drug marks on his arms.  The case can be closed quickly, which is a good things since it’s Sunday, and everyone wants to get back to their lives.

Everyone, that is, but LAPD detective Harry Bosch.  The scene looks too neat, and some of the evidence just doesn’t seem to fit the scene that everyone else is ready to believe.  And then Bosch is shocked to realize that he knows the victim.  He and Billy Meadows were both tunnel rats during the Vietnam War.  With a personal connection to the case, Bosch starts digging and poking and coming up with more clues that don’t fit the scene.  What was Meadows involved in that got him killed?

Sometimes, I think the character you meet first in your favorite.  I know quite a few Connelly fans who absolutely love Harry Bosch and can’t stand Mickey Haller.  Personally, I love Mickey yet found Bosch a bit cold and hard to get to know.  From the little I’ve seen of him in the Haller novels, this seems to be Bosch’s character.  He’s not a bad character, I just wish he had a bit more personality to him.

Having said that, I did like him enough to root for him to solve the case and overcome the other obstacles in his path.  Occasionally, I felt he crossed some lines, but the other characters called him on that as well.  Speaking of those characters, I loved them or loved to hate them.  And a few of the characters switched back and forth between those two categories as the book progressed.

The plot was strong with plenty of sub-plots to keep things moving forward.  I saw a few of the twists coming, and one plot point I figured out a long time before Harry did.  Still, there was more than enough going on to keep me entertained.  I hope the clichés in the story lessen as the books progress in the series, however.

One thing I especially appreciated is how Harry’s backstory was handled.  He’s given enough it almost feels like a later book in a series instead of a debut novel, but those back cases are discussed in enough detail eventually that we know what happened.  Yet, we are given this without stopping the story for long periods of time.  It’s slipped in a little here and a little there it doesn’t slow things down.

I also got a fascinating look at a part of the Vietnam War I wasn’t familiar with.  Having been born just after the conflict, there is much I don’t know, and this book really drove home some of the horrors of that particular war.

Of course, this book is definitely filled with my language and violence than I normally like.  If I’d been reading the book, I definitely would have skipped over a few scenes that were a bit gruesome, but that’s just my taste in books.

Sadly, the narrator could have done a better job.  Dick Hill was a bit too theatrical for my tastes, especially in the emotional scenes or if a character sighed or did something else he felt he could dramatize.  Some acting is involved in a good audio book, but this one just went a little too far and distracted more than I like.

I know I’m picking at the flaws, but this is certainly an entertaining book.  The Black Echo is a strong debut that shows the promise of the long and successful career Michael Connelly has had.

You can read more from his career by reading the rest of the Harry Bosch mysteries in order.

This book is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.


  1. Would you believe I've never read any Michael Connelly? Not sure how that happened. I've been wanting to read more thriller type books so I'll have to give him a try.

    1. I actually recommend The Lincoln Lawyer books more, but it might be because he was a much more experienced writer by the time they came out. Good writers do grow in their craft after all.

  2. I really enjoy the Bosch series. I think I've read The Lincoln Lawyer, but it didn't stick with me.

    1. I'm sure I will enjoy more when I get to read them.


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