Echo Park by Michael Connelly

In Echo Park, Harry Bosch continues his lonely, almost religious campaign to close old unsolved crimes. “Bosch considered himself a true detective, one who took it all inside and cared. Everybody counts or nobody counts. That’s what he always said. It made him good at the job but also vulnerable.” It is this unflinching determination, with the emotional cost to which it inevitably leads, that makes Michael Connelly’s swiftly plotted, exciting series, embedded in the mores and morals of LA, one of the essential reads of the genre.

In the present story, Bosh is reinvestigating the case of Marie Gesto, a young woman who went missing thirteen years ago and was never found. Bosch, together with his young partner Kiz Rider, revisits every aspect of the case when Raynard Waits, a murderer awaiting trial, confesses to killing Marie all those years ago. As part of an attempt to escape the death penalty, Waits offers to show the prosecutor (inevitably, an ambitious politician seeking office) where Marie’s body is buried, and Bosch is reluctantly drawn into the trip. Again inevitably, everything goes wrong and Bosch finds himself isolated and under suspicion in his refusal to accept the situation at face value and his determination to investigate it on his own terms – helped by the welcome return of FBI agent Rachel Walling, who has featured in some previous Bosch novels. (Readers of crime fiction will smile to see the names of Sarah Weinman and Duane Swierczynski briefly mentioned.)

Bosch gradually reveals not one but three layers of story: that of Marie Gesto; of Raynard Waits; and that of the truth of what has bought them together. The title of the book is in itself an echo for Bosch of the first book in the series, The Black Echo, then as here harking back to his time in the army in the tunnels of Vietnam, and then as here assisting him to keep his resolve to help innocent victims in treacherous circumstances. As well as the sure and compulsive plotting, Connelly makes Bosch such a sympathetic character: a straight arrow according to his own personal moral code, an uncompromising stubbornness which means he can never advance in the slick, sleazy environment of LA police and legal politics, any more than he can make the emotional compromises necessary for personal relationships.

His character is summed up by his feelings when he believes he made a mistake in his earlier handling of the Marie Gesto case by overlooking a possible lead: “It was every detective’s nightmare. The worst-case scenario. A lead ignored or bungled, allowing something awful to be loose in the world. Something dark and evil, destroying life after life as it moved in the shadows. It was true that all detectives made mistakes and had to live with the regrets. But Bosch instinctively knew that this one was malignant. It would grow and grow inside until it darkened everything and he became the last victim, the last life destroyed.”

First posted on Petrona, September 2007

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