A decade or so ago, I read Michael Connelly’s “Blood Work”, the start of a series about an ex-FBI agent, didn’t think much of it and never went back for more.
I now know that I should have started with Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books. I decided to try them out because I keep hearing them referenced by other writers as something their own characters read, to set them in a particular milieu. I felt as if I was missing out on something.
I always have to start a series from the beginning. In this case, the beginning was twenty four years ago. When I saw that “The Black Echo” was published in 1992, I was doubtful about how well a story about an LAPD detective would stand up after all that time.
I found that “The Black Echo” stands up very well indeed, mainly because the plot is much more complex and much more original that it at first seems and the story is told with a momentum that never lets up.
It took me a while to go back to the nineties, when cops wore pagers and had to find pay-phones to make calls; when smoking was seen a normal or perhaps even inevitable and complaining about it was a character flaw; and when serving police officers were still likely to veterans of the Vietnam War. The way Connelly writes, building Bosch’s world one detail at a time with no details wasted, the nineties paraphernalia came across as authentic period detail rather than sounding dated or tired.
Even after only one book, I can see Harry Bosch’s potential as a strong, long-running character. His strengths: persistence, a need to know, a logical mind, a certain ruthlessness and his flaws: an inability to become part of the institutional family, a smart mouth when faced with incompetent authority, war-memory induced insomnia, and a chronic inability to have fun, provide a fascinating potential for success and self-destruction.
I listened to Dick Hill narrate “The Black Echo”. Perhaps it’s because I’m more used to hearing him read the Jack Reacher novels, but I found myself comparing Harry Bosch and Jack Reacher. At first the two seemed to be cut from the same cloth but by the end of “Black Echo” I realised that Connelly’s plot was more complex and more realistic than most of Child’s novels and that, unlike the increasingly psychopathic Reacher, Bosch is actually trying to solve things within the law. He’s also capable of a great deal more introspection than Reacher.
So now I’m a Harry Bosch fan albeit more than twenty years after everyone else. Still, it’s good to know that there’s still new stuff to find out there,