To put it simply – Michael Connelly is a great writer. There, that was easy, straight and to the point. In what I consider to be a terrific first novel, Michael Connelly establishes his trademark character Harry “Hieronymus” Bosch in The Black Echo. This mystery starring Harry, an officer demoted from the Los Angeles Homicide squad to the lowly Hollywood division, goes beyond your standard L.A. police procedural.
The book opens up with Bosch getting assigned to investigate what seems like a drug overdose at the Mulholland Dam. When he arrives, Harry finds a tattoo that shows the guy was a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam. These were men who searched for Viet Cong in a network of burrows underneath Vietnamese villages. A Vietnam veteran himself, Bosch sympathizes with the man but doesn’t recognize him. Though time and drugs have aged the corpse’s face, it turns out that Harry knew the victim as one Billy Meadows.
Here the story kicks into high gear. Everyone at the crime scene thinks it is a simple heroin overdose, even Harry’s partner, Edgar. But Bosch wants to dig into this a little harder, and he does. Turns out his old buddy Meadows had a connection to an unsolved bank robbery. In the heist, the vaults were tunneled into from the storm drains below. Ultimately, Bosch takes his information to the FBI, where he meets agent Eleanor Wish. This move causes a cascade of events that carries the plot and its twists throughout the rest of the story.
To Connelly’s credit, he deftly weaves back-story into the narrative. In it, you really get to know Meadows as more than just a corpse, what happened in the “doll maker” case that caused Harry to get bumped into the Hollywood division, and an overall great primer for what has become a long-running series for Connelly. Dick Hill turns in a good narrative performance that fits the material well. Overall, a great audio book experience for Connelly and mystery fans alike.