Publisher: Warner Books
This book was one of four that was put into my hands by a former co-worker of mine from Wbooks; a very nice woman with a tremendous passion for books in general, and mysteries in particular.
The central character of Black Echo is Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, a former Vietnam soldier turned LA Cop. In fact, he's turned Beverly Hills cop, after departmental politics exiled him from his beat in LA proper. A routine murder investigation takes a turn for the personal when the body discovered in a drainage ditch turns out to be a fellow "Tunnel Rat" from the war; after that, Harry is drawn into a strange mystery that takes him back to the tunnels of Vietnam, while trying to negotiate with the FBI, police department politics, and, of course, the bad guys.
The mystery itself is pretty well-done. It's not the sort that you can figure out at the beginning (the reader doesn't have the information needed), but it makes sense as it's revealed, and I never ran into a "but that doesn't make any sense!" sort of moment.
Connelly's characterizations are solid—not particularly original, mind you, but solid. Harry is a pretty stereotypical hard-boiled, maverick detective. His eventual side-kick/love interest, Agent Eleanor Wish, is likewise well-rendered, if a bit of a stock character (the tough lady cop, this one). While many of the characters are a bit stereotyped, they are rendered well.
Connelly has an excellent knowledge of his subjects, and the information is presented well. Police procedure and acronyms flow throughout the text, but in a way that doesn't make it seem forced or misplaced. Likewise, his knowledge of the Vietnamese war, so far as it pertains to this story, seems fairly complete and accurate. It usually only shows up in background discussions, but it is well done.
This is one of Connelly's first books, and it shows. The writing is gorgeous in some parts, but at other points, it's horrifically choppy. Connelly occasionally suffers from strange need to explain things that are perfectly obvious to the alert reader, which I find baffling. I would assume that anyone who reads mysteries is likely to pick up on subtle, or, more to the point, not so subtle, clues. Black Echo has the occasional X-Men III-like moment where the writer turns to the audience and says "in case you were so dumb that you missed that, let me make it REALLY CLEAR for you." Blah.
As I said, the book is populated by...well, clichés, I guess. They aren't really stereotypes, but they are definitely standard issue cop drama molds (the Maverick Cop, the Tough Lady, the Bumbling/Obnoxious Internal Affairs Guys, the Loud Chief, etc.). None of these are bad enough to be offensive, and they are rendered well, but man...original, they are not.
Overall, it was decent. I had a hard time getting into the book, but once I got going, I found that I rather enjoyed it. It's not high literature, but if you like this sort of hard-boiled cop drama/mystery, it's probably worth checking out.
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