The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

July 18, 2008

RE-REVIEW: THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly

In the quest to resolve my riddle of whether Michael Connelly's latter books are not as good as the early ones, or whether my expectations for Connelly's work are set too high, I have now finished re-reading The Black Echo, the first in the Harry Bosch series. I half-expected to no longer enjoy this first book just because my opinion of Connelly's work is now so tainted by how I feel about books such as The Lincoln Lawyer and The Narrows. That was not the case. I enjoyed re-reading Black Echo, naturally not as much as upon first reading if only because I know the ending, but even reading more analytically than before, I still find this book to be not only an outstanding work of crime fiction in and of itself, but when one considers that this is the first of Connelly's books, the quality seems even more remarkable. Small wonder that the great James Lee Burke used this title in a small piece of action in one of his own Robicheaux books.

Characterization: A+ Getting to know Harry Bosch, his good and his, um, lesser qualities, is a great part of what is so fascinating about this book. This is one of the strongest initial entries for any series I've read. Not the strongest, but one of them.

Pacing: A Excellent. The reader is pulled along on a string, slowly at first, then more rapidly, and then yanked into the ending. The ending was a trifle jerky, but remember that this is a 'first' book.

Setting / Ambiance: A LA becomes a character all its own.

Prose: A- Occasionally wordy, but not overpoweringly so. Occasionnally workman-like. But the flow is good, and sometimes Connelly is downright poetic.

Plot: A- Not all that original, but not a mass of cliches either. Some cliches, yes, but Connelly's prose and characterization often mask them or even refresh them. Wonderfully intricate plotting, and this for me is a hallmark of Connelly's best work. I enjoy the way he can scatter worms of details hither and yon, then later get them all back into the proverbial can. Of course, there have been books where I think the worms got away, but that's something to discover as I continue re-reading this series.

Overall satisfaction and how well the book has held up over the years: A-
The book has really not suffered much for the years since its publication (1992). If some things seem more cliched than they did upon first reading, remember that some points were original to Connelly at the time but have since been swiped by dozens of imitators. The ending seemed more contrived than I recall, but if this was my first reading I doubt it would seem so. I can clearly see from this book why I and so many others became instant fans.

Next up: Black Ice

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