I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
There is nowhere better for me to try to understand the mindset of Harry Bosch or indeed his creator Michael Connelly by starting again where it all began book one in the series.
Harry is best described as "a detective who would do the right thing no matter what the cost. A man with a sharp worn code of conduct. A classic outsider.".... In The Black Echo we learn about Harry's activities as a tunnel rat during the Vietnam war and how the horrors of this underground hell helped shape him as a detective with the will to survive and a loner's code of justice. When the body of a fellow "rat" Billy Meadows is discovered in a drain outlet, Harry is determined to find the perpetrator responsible and bring justice to his onetime comrade in arms. In this endeavour he is joined by FBI agent Eleanor Wish, a relationship develops that becomes personal and leaves Harry wondering if her intentions are honourable or does she harbor an underlying agenda.
The weakness of the story is the plot; dirty money profits from Saigon laundered as precious stones and kept secret in a bank vault in downtown LA. The only way to retrieve the hidden stash is to tunnel deep into the innards of the bank. In contrast the strength of the story is the superb charactization of the main players. Bosch, Eleanor Wish and Deputy Chief Irvin Irving who appears to be on a one man crusade against what he views as underhand tactics by a maverick lone detective.
As always Michael Connnelly is razor sharp in his acute observations of the human spirit....."Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, and that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story."....."He was a worn-out old man whose eyes had quit caring about anything but the odds on three year olds"..."I believe that shit happens. I believe that the best you can do in this job is come out even".......
Having just reread The Black Echo I have actually awarded it an extra star! Whilst the plot becomes a little laborious there are nice incidental comments that can be made. There is a theme of tunnels running through the story, a young teenager found murdered in a drainage tunnel, bank robberies where the perpetrators ingeniously use tunnels as their mode of entry, and of course Harry Bosch was a tunnel rat in Vietnam and murder victim Meadows was a tunnel rat and friend. The characters of Lewis and Clarke are portrayed as 2 buffoons from Internal Affairs, who under the strict command of Irving have been asked to shadow Bosch and somehow find or witness the detective acting outside the law. There is a particularly funny scene where Harry confronts the 2 and handcuffs them around a tree.....again this sense of comedy does not sit well in the overall theme of The Black Echo....needless to say the conclusion of this affair is swift and bloody.
The Black Echo is an important read not only because it is the first book in a great series but it lays the groundwork for many great adventures to come and the cynicism of dedicated detective that can only increase....