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Monday, September 6, 2010

Echo Park by Michael Connelly

"Echo Park" is Michael Connelly's 10th or 11th police procedural featuring Harry Bosch, one of the most tenacious detectives in Los Angeles. Harry is working with his partner, Kiz Rider, in the Open-Unsolved Unit after returning from an unsatisfying retirement. One of the cases that he has never forgotten involved the disappearance of a young woman named Marie Gesto back in 1993. Although thirteen years have passed since Marie was abducted, her body was never found; Harry revisits the file whenever he can to search for new evidence. Although he believes that she is long dead, Harry would like to bring Marie's body home to her parents so that they can finally lay her to rest.

Harry is shocked when he receives a call from Detective Freddy Olivas, in Northeast Division Homicide, requesting everything that Bosch has on Gesto. It seems that Rick O'Shea, who runs the Special Prosecutions Section of the District Attorney's Office, has struck a deal with a convict named Raynard Waits, known as the "Echo Park Bagman". Waits was stopped in his van with the body parts of two young women whom he had strangled and dismembered. O'Shea is willing to spare Waits from the death penalty if he leads the authorities to the grave of Marie Gesto, whom Waits claims was one of his victims, and provides information on other unsolved homicides. Harry reluctantly goes along with the plan, although his gut instinct tells him that it is a very bad idea.

This is an intricately plotted and carefully crafted novel that demonstrates once again why Connelly is one of the best in the business. Bosch is one of Connelly's indelible creations. He is a skeptical and cranky cynic who believes that the ends justify the means. Harry is known as a cowboy who bends the rules and flouts authority whenever it suits him. However, he has gotten away with his shenanigans because he is a sharp detective who is known for getting results when others have failed.

Before he questions Waits, Harry decides to call an old flame, FBI Agent Rachel Walling, to help him construct a psychological profile. After working together for a short while, Harry and Rachel discover that they still have feelings for one another. However, Bosch is a prototype of the lonely cop who has difficulty sustaining a long-term relationship. What woman would want to live with a man so driven that he never stops thinking about murder and so reckless that he repeatedly puts himself in the line of fire without backup?

This book has scenes of horrifying cruelty, quite a few surprises and red herrings, and a detailed and authentic account of how detectives meticulously work a case. The dialogue is sharp, clever, and peppered with colorful police jargon, the characters are vividly depicted, and the conclusion is both suspenseful and poignant. Connelly brings freshness to such well-worn themes as the ways in which politics and greed pervert the criminal justice system and the terrible emotional and physical toll paid by homicide detectives who take their cases home with them. Aside from its excellence as a great detective story, "Echo Park" is notable for its many poetically written passages that encapsulate important truths. For example, One of Bosch's mentors, Ray Vaughn "had a special sympathy for . . .'murder's nobodies,' the victims who didn't count. He taught Bosch early on that in society all victims are not created equal, but to the true detective they must be." Harry Bosch certainly lives by that credo. He is willing to do anything to insure that no murder victim is ever forgotten.

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