Monday, July 29, 2013

The Harry Bosch Novels: Volume 1

Michael Connelly
The Harry Bosch Novels: Volume 1

Little, Brown, 2001

This book consists of the first three novels about a Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch, including the Connelly’s debut The Black Echo. Each of the three novels is a stand-alone, but reading in a row, you can see how all three are fused into one common narrative about the life of Bosch.

Bosch, at first glance, is quite ordinary detective: he didn’t know his father, his mother was killed when he was a child, then he wandered around the foster homes, then the Vietnam War, the LAPD patrol, and up the career ladder, to the elite RHD. However, after one incident, IAD became interested in Bosch: Harry shot an unarmed serial killer. Disciplinary action had followed, and instead of RHD Bosch had been sent to a homicide table in Hollywood. Not the most original biography, if not for one "but": Bosch is a sort of private detective in LAPD, he is an outsider, a foreign body in the command line. His own lieutenant despises him, he has no friends in the division, and the IAD wants to nail Bosch forever.

Was Bosch among the first outsider detectives inside the police department? Hardly. However, the attractiveness of novels about Bosch is largely in the fact that it is non-standard mystery stories under the guise of police protsedurals. Connelly spent several years as a crime reporter at LA Times, hence the authenticity of the details. Description of Homicide in work is phenomenal. LAPD-geeks will squeal with delight (which is what I did while reading this 800+ pages).

But Harry is working ouside of a police structure. It is not something that he would not trust, but he has his own methods. Although Bosch is at odds with the Internal Affairs (especially in The Black Echo), he rare breaks the law. Bosch solves the most puzzling cases, often those where corruption is involved, but he does so not by knocking out the truth with his fists, but thanks to his extraordinary efficiency. Bosch knows that the management structure of the department always hinders the investigation, and in addition often chooses the easy way out. Bosch doesn’t care, it is convenient or not for the department.

Plots of all three novels - The Black Echo, The Black Ice and The Concrete Blonde - are puzzling stories, with double or even triple bottom, with a moderate share of persecution and shootings, and The Black Echo’s plot is at all close to perfection. The Black Echo tells the story of a bank robbery, The Black Ice - the distribution of a new kind of drug, and The Concrete Blonde brings us back to background story of The Black Echo, regarding the serial killer nicknamed the Dollmaker. And I can responsibly say that The Concrete Blonde is the best novel about a serial killer I have ever read.

As much as it may sound strange, but sometimes Connelly’s style reminded me the style of Richard Stark, creator of the Parker novels. Bosch and Parker are on opposite sides of the law, and I’m not sure, put them both into one book, would Bosch be able to catch Parker. But the mechanics of the thoughts of their characters Connelly and Stark describe similar.

«When he was done, many of the gaps were closed. Meadows served a total of six and a half years in the federal pen. He was paroled in early 1988, when he was sponsored by the Charlie Company program. He spent ten months in the program before moving to the apartment in Sepulveda. Parole reports showed he secured a job as a drill operator in the gold mine in the Santa Clarita Valley. He completed parole in February 1989 and he quit his job a day after his PO signed him off. No known employment since, according to the Social Security Administration. IRS said Meadows hadn't filed a return since 1988.

Bosch went into the kitchen and got a beer out and made a ham and cheese sandwich. He stood by the sink eating and drinking and trying to organize things about the case in his head. He believed that Meadows had been scheming from the time he walked out of TI, or at least Charlie Company. He'd had a plan. He worked legitimate jobs until he cleared parole, and then he quit and the plan was set into action. Bosch felt sure of it. And he felt that it was therefore likely that, at either the prison or the halfway house, Meadows had hooked up with the men who had burglarized the bank with him. And then killed him.»

Six months ago, I thought that Michael Connelly’s books are commercial fiction, mediocre airplane reading. But now, three novels later, it can be said that Connelly is an unbelievably great talent.

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