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

July 4, 2008


If you've never read any of Crais's Elvis Cole books, I sincerely pity you. If you are already a fan, go get this book right now. Put simply, Crais is writing at the top of his game: Evocative prose, 3D characters, tight plot.

I dislike writing synopses; there's a fine line between a simple description of the plot and just giving away the story. To put it in a nutshell, Elvis must retrace a murder investigation he handled three years earlier. Elvis's work resulted in freeing a man who apparently went on to commit two more brutal murders. His confidence rattled, choking on guilt, Elvis does what he does better than anyone: Detect. And therein lies the story. Collecting pieces of the puzzle is almost more fun than solving the puzzle, and in CHASING DARKNESS Elvis Cole gives a master class in the fine art, as well as the science, of being a private detective.

Cole's friend and partner, Joe Pike, lends a hand as needed. Pike is one of those unusual characters where less is more, and Crais is well aware of that. If Pike even speaks a single line of dialogue it is to say more than any other character at hand. Just his physical presence carries an impact and alters the dynamics of any scene.

If you've not read Crais before, I don't recommend beginning with this book. Yes, the story does stand entirely on its own, but the fact is that as good as the characterization is here it will be all the richer if you go back and begin with earlier books in the series. And a book this good should certainly be given all the advantages.