Review: Echo Park by Michael Connelly

5 August 2007

Michael Connelly gets better and better. This latest in the Harry Bosch series has a great plot, with lots of twists, plus a suitable set characters, many of whom we have met before. The action is driven by Bosch’s attachment to a case from 1993 that he couldn’t solve then, even when he thought he knew who his most likely suspect was. When a killer arrested on other charges offers to cough for the cold case in exchange for his life, and leads the police to the body, it looks like a slam dunk. But this takes us to only half way through the book so you know that its not quite that simple, especially when there’s a lot of politics involved.

A risk that a lot of series writers face is making sure that their books are not too formulaic and that their fascination with their character and his development (or lack of it) doesn’t take over the story. Many of those characteristics are here – cop partner loyalty, protagonist inability or unwillingness to address issues thus pushing away those who want to get close, uncooperative and bureaucratic police hierarchies, amazingly smart and well-read serial killers etc, etc – but they don’t get too much in the way. So provided you don’t get too frustrated with Bosch’s obsessions, he’s a good illustration of Chandler’s vision of the hero of crime fiction:

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder, 1944