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By Michael Connelly
Little Brown, 2006 ($26.99)
Reviewed by Rick McMahan
ECHO PARK marks an even dozen books featuring Harry Bosch, and it is the second novel since Harry returned from retirement to work as part of the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit which is part of the elite Robbery-Homicide Division. For Harry, the unsolved murder of Marie Gesto is one of those cases that haunt him, one he continues to work and try to solve with no luck. ECHO PARK opens with Harry receiving a call from another LAPD homicide cop who wants Harry’s murder book on the Gesto murder, but Harry demands he be involved in the case if it involves whoever killed the young woman. What unfolds is the fact Detective Olivas is working on a high-profile case, the arrest of Reynard Waits, a man who was caught trying to dispose of two dismembered women near Echo Park. Wait’s attorney has approached the authorities and has offered to clear up several unsolved homicides, including Marie Gesto’s disappearance.
But wait a minute; if the badguy’s already in custody how can there be much of a story? Well, as usual with most Connelly stories, what seems complete is just the tip of the iceberg. The bomb dropped on Harry Bosch is that the killer was questioned during Bosch’s original investigation and discounted as a suspect. Harry begins to doubt his ability as an investigator as well as a guilty conscious that by his failing to recognize a killer so many years ago that he contributed to the man being on the streets and being able to prey on more innocent victims.
I have to say that overall, I was a little let-down by the last Bosch book, THE CLOSERS. I felt that there was very little connection with Harry Bosch, instead, the reader was treated to a survey of the Open-Unsolved Unit as Harry and his partner solved a case. The reader just wasn’t inside Harry’s head riding with him on a deeper level. However, in ECHO PARK Connelly has bounced back with a rock-solid Harry Bosch novel. One that is like a musician at his peak, hitting every note smoothly, perfectly and in a seamless progression. In ECHO PARK, we see the return of many of old the characters--Jerry Edgar, Kiz Rider, Irvin Irving and even FBI Special Agent Rachel Walling.
One of the things I like so much about Harry Bosch is his flawed character. Unlike the clichéd drunk and bitter cop of mystery fiction, Harry’s flaws are all his own as well as his strengths. Harry’s struggling to be a parent over long-distance, and just as his ex-wife predicted to him (in THE NARROWS), after returning to the force, his relationship with his daughter has suffered. Connelly doesn’t dwell on it, but the way he handles it is masterful; he mentions that his daughter is out of the country with his ex-wife and how he misses her, but as the case rolls on, his family slips from the pages and Harry’s mind to a degree. It’ll be interesting to see how Connelly follows up with this in future books. Without giving away a plot twist, Rachel Walling makes an accusation of Harry about orchestrating a deadly encounter and knowing the outcome. This echoes as the same observation other characters have made of Harry, that he purposefully will push events towards a specific and highly volatile conclusion. As a reader, you see and can believe Rachel’s accusation, but Harry’s explanation is also very believable, so the reader is unsure which is true.
Another facet of ECHO PARK is the comparison the reader will draw between Harry Bosch and Reynard Waits. Both men were raised in the institutions of child protective services without parents. Even though the parallel of their lives is obvious, we see how Harry’s made the experiences part of a meaningful life where as Waits turned it into a festering hatred. The whole thing makes the reader (and Harry) wonder, "If but for the grace of God, there go I." And you have to especially wonder if Harry thinks those thoughts after encountering Reynard Waits.
Once again, Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch deliver in a great tale.
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