24.2.10

Michael Connelly's Echo Park


If you have not read a Michael Connelly novel yet, you are in for a real treat. His 21 crime novels have all been bestsellers. According to his website,
Fifty-eight million copies of Connelly’s books have sold worldwide and he has been translated into thirty-nine foreign languages. He has won the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Macavity Award, Los Angeles Times Best Mystery/Thriller Award, Shamus Award, Dilys Award, Nero Award, Barry Award, Audie Award, Ridley Award, Maltese Falcon Award (Japan), .38 Caliber Award (France), Grand Prix Award (France), Premio Bancarella Award (Italy), and the Pepe Carvalho award (Spain).
Connelly is not just a seriously talented novelist but also an award-winning journalist; he co-authored a Pulitzer Prize finalist article. Connelly’s former work as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times informs all his fiction; his street-wise knowledge of the criminal world is evident on every page. His novels are written with an economy of language and eye for significant detail characteristic of an accomplished journalist.

Connelly’s 12th Harry Bosch novel, Echo Park, begins with the discovery of a missing woman’s car. Thirteen years pass but no body is ever found or suspect apprehended. Despite the lack of progress, police detective Bosch of the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit keeps working on the case. Then a surprise development occurs: a serial killer confesses to the crime as part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty. But when Bosch interrogates him, he is not convinced that the serial killer committed the crime. He suspects cover-ups, bribery, and corruption. As the case unfolds, twists and turns in the plot provide breathtaking suspense.

Reviewers have praised the book, especially its plotting. The New York Times’s Janet Maslin points out that Connelly “has woven entirely unsurprising elements into a surprisingly suspense-filled story. Just read his rivals in the crime genre to realize how difficult this is and how easy he makes it look.” The Boston Globe’s Sam Allis claims that “Connelly will be remembered for his plotting, which is the best in the business today and among the best of all time.” And The Guardian’s Matthew Lewin maintains, “Connelly has produced another blindingly good plot which, mixed with spellbinding action, takes us deep into a corrupt world.”

Like Robert B. Parker, Connelly was deeply inspired during his university days by the work of Raymond Chandler. The High Tower apartments where the action of Echo Park begins, says Maslin, were home to Raymond Chandler. “And Mr. Connelly now does some of his writing in Mr. Chandler’s old apartment, a place he uses for inspiration. No living crime writer has a better right to be there.” Echo Park’s LA setting and hard-boiled hero are particularly reminiscent of Chandler’s novels. Bosch is a rebellious tough-guy detective, fearless in his pursuit of justice and reckless in securing his personal safety.

Bosch’s girlfriend, an FBI agent and former profiler, provides Bosch with insight into the mind of the serial killer. Here as elsewhere, Connelly is masterful in his depiction of the pathological psyche. The psychological identification of Bosch with the serial killer is an intriguing part of the book. Born to a prostitute and raised in the same orphanage as Foxworth, Bosch is haunted by the similarities of their situations: “It felt too personal to Bosch, too close to his own path. Except for a turn here or there, Bosch and Foxworth had made similar journeys” (293). Part of the attraction of Bosch’s character is his moral rags to riches progression.

Connelly, Michael. Echo Park. New York: Little, Brown, 2006.