(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAY 22, 2007)
“Where is it?” Bosch asked.
“Up on that overlook, above the Mulholland Dam. You know the place?”
“Yeah, I’ve been up there.”
Bosch got up and walked to the dining room table. He opened a drawer designed for silverware and took out a pen and a small notebook. On the first page of the notebook he wrote down the date and location of the murder scene.
“Any other details I should know?”
“Not a lot,” Gandle said. “Like I said, it was described to me as an execution. Two in the back of the head. Somebody took this guy up there and blew his brains out all over the pretty view.”
The Overlook has Michael Connelly’s most complex and interesting character, Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch in yet another job change, this time working with a new partner in the Homicide Special part of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide division. Harry’s first call from his new boss Larry Gandle concerns an execution style murder at a Mulholland Dam overlook. Harry and his new partner Ignacio Ferras at first work separately in investigating the scene, especially since Harry just can’t get comfortable with his much younger partner.
They soon find out that the victim is Stanley Kent, a doctor who uses radioactive cesium for cancer treatments and who, as a result of handling such a dangerous material, is on a list of people cautioned and monitored by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI also becomes quickly involved in the case including Harry’s former lover Rachel Walling and her partner Jack Brenner.
Harry and Rachel Walling discover that Kent’s wife Alicia is also a victim when they find her naked, gagged and her hands tied behind her. Alicia immediately asks about her husband and the detectives put her off until she can get herself dressed. Once she returns she is finally told that they believe that her husband has been murdered. Alicia Kent then tells her story about how two masked men came into her house with knives and forced her to take off her clothes. The men also asked if she had a gun which they took along with keys to her car. They asked about a camera which they then used to take a picture of her after she was tied up. Alicia Kent also offered that one of the two men appeared to not speak English and the two men spoke in what sounded like an Arabic language. The detectives find out that one of the men used Alicia’s email account to send a note to her husband. They found the note included a picture of the naked and bound Alicia and a request for Stanley Kent to bring all the cesium he could get to the Mulholland overlook later that night.
Of course with the FBI involved, even with an old friend like Rachel, Harry has some reluctance and never fully trusts them. Despite these concerns, he does eventually find a way to work together with them, and he even gets a little more comfortable with his new partner although he seems always reluctant to call him by his preferred “Iggy.” As typical of Connelly’s style, the reader is given some shadows of doubt about some of the information along the way and we get some understanding of how Harry thinks in ultimately solving this case. The Overlook is another thoroughly enjoyable and exciting book.
The Overlook, in a somewhat different and shorter form, was originally included as a sixteen-part serial in the New York Times Magazine. I started to read the on-line version, but never finished, as I’m not a fan of reading fiction on my computer. As a result, I can’t comment on the differences between the on-line and book version. Of course, when it comes to Connelly, more is usually better.
The Overlook, great and at about half as long as a typical Bosch book, was too short to fully satisfy my desires and really written a while ago so I was hopeful for something more this year. (I realize that it was just the Fall of 2006 when Echo Park was issued, but still…) The Overlook really doesn’t include much back story, especially given its only slightly more than 200 pages. Yes Harry has a new job and partner and we hear a little about Irvin Irving and Kiz Rider, and of course, Rachel Walling is a key character, but really nothing much new happens in Harry’s life. I’m not trying to be critical, just pointing out how this isn’t really as satisfying as a longer fuller book.
In addition, we will have to wait a while for a full length Bosch book based on some of my own “detective” work of reviewing some of Connelly’s various answers on the Michaelconnelly.com message board, Connelly is currently working on a sequel to The Lincoln Lawyer in which Bosch will be in the book, but not as the main character. (I suggest taking a look at this board as Michael recently responded to many questions and comments.) As big a fan of Connelly as I am, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I still haven’t read The Lincoln Lawyer. To a certain extent, I’ve been saving it…
- Amazon readers rating: from 2198 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Overlook at the author's website(back to top)
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale DEC 30, 2006)
In 1993, Harry Bosch and his then partner Jerry Edgar unsuccessfully worked on the disappearance of Marie Gesto, a young woman who had gone horseback riding and was never seen or heard from again. This was a case that haunted Harry over the years and one that he worked on during his brief retirement as well as occasionally during his recent return to the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit. Now, 13 years later, detective Freddy Olivas and assistant District Attorney Richard “Ricochet” O’Shea, the two men working a big case concerning the conviction of serial killer Reynard Waits, are interested in the case.
District Attorney O’Shea is working a deal with Waits that will allow him to avoid the death penalty and get life without parole by agreeing to several unsolved murders. Waits offers two preliminary cases in good faith as part of this deal, including admitting to the killing of Marie Gesto. O’Shea wants Bosch to interview Waits to determine if he really is being honest about his offer and that he really killed Gesto. Bosch completes the interview and although he thinks Waits is lying, he can not really find anything false in what Waits says. However, Waits is unable to describe the location of Marie Gesto’s dead body, but agrees to take the detectives and attorneys to where she is buried. Right after showing the location of the body, Waits escapes after shooting and killing detective Olivas and seriously injuring Harry’s partner Kiz Rider.
Harry decides to seek the help of FBI Agent Rachel Walling, who has returned to LA from South Dakota. She and Harry very quickly re-establish their romantic relationship. Walling unofficially helps Harry as he evaluates the truthfulness of Waits and later as he tries to find Waits, even while being kept off active duty pending the investigation of Waits’ escape and shootings. They form a good team as they work to uncover clues to who Waits is and where he may be. Connelly of course adds the typical unexpected twists and confusing Harry and the reader about whom you can trust.
In Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly has created an extremely real and generally likeable but also flawed person with a history that has molded him into who and what he now is. We have seen some of that history in the now 12 books in the series, but much, such as his early life in an orphanage or his later Vietnam War experiences pre-date the series and only through the careful reading of the books do we learn how all of these experiences have molded this Bosch person. At times, Connelly gets the reader so much into Harry’s head that you can feel his emotions and you almost become him. Of course Connelly then has Harry do something that at first you think is right until one of the other also extremely well-characterized persons in the book makes you realize that Harry has gone over a line that most of us would not go. I’m truly amazed at Connelly’s talent to do this. He’s done it before and he’ll do it again and I can’t stop how he plays with my emotions and beliefs. Of course these flaws in Harry, not only make him that much more interesting, but also keep him from ever having any long term relationships.
Fans of Harry Bosch will be “pleased” that an old favorite, former Deputy Chief Irvin Irving has a minor role in the book. Irving is an easy person to hate, especially since Connelly does such a great job of making you feel Bosch’s emotions. Irving, now no longer in the LAPD, is running for local office and takes the opportunity to take some shots at Harry (of course).
As can be seen by some of my other reviews on this site, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books are one of my favorite series, and may have become my favorite. I’ve enjoyed everything Connelly has written, but for consistently high quality books with very real characters, nothing can top the Bosch books. I found The Closers a little slow in places as Connelly had to spend some time establishing the new “closers” program that is also in Echo Park.
As some regular readers of Connelly’s books may know, he currently has a Harry Bosch novella, The Overlook, running in the Sunday New York Times magazine (available online for free). Connelly has attempted in that novella to not give too much away about Echo Park, but I’ve just started reading the novella and it does clearly take place after Echo Park and I would recommend waiting to read The Overlook until after reading Echo Park.
- Amazon readers rating: from 219 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Echo Park at the author's website(back to top)
"The Closers "
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale JUN 12, 2005)
Harry Bosch, who begins his retirement from the LAPD in Michael Connelly’s Lost Light (2003) and continues in The Narrows (2004), decides to take advantage of a new program and returns to the LAPD in The Closers. He again partners with Kiz Rider, this time as detectives in a new program that investigates old cases. With a return of Bosch to the LAPD, Connelly again writes the book in third person.
On Bosch’s first day back, he meets with his new supervisor, Abel Pratt, who explains about the new division:
“Without a doubt,” Pratt said, “this squad is the most noble place in the building. A city that forgets its murder victims is a city lost. This is where we don’t forget. We’re like the guys they bring in the bottom of the ninth inning to win or lose the game. The closers. If we can’t do it, nobody can. If we blow it, the game is over because we’re the last resort. Yes, we’re out-numbered. We’ve got eight-thousand open-unsolveds since nineteen-sixty. But we are undaunted. Even if this whole unit clears only one case a month – just twelve a year – we are doing something. We’re the closers, baby. If you’re in homicide, this is the place to be.”
The first and really only case that Bosch and Rider work on in The Closers concerns an unsolved murder from 1988 of 16-year old Rebecca Verloren. They are assigned the case when one of the original detectives, Arturo Garcia, recommends that it be re-opened to evaluate possible DNA evidence from a skin sample that had been found stuck in the gun. In 1988, the detectives did not have access to DNA testing, so the now-Commander Garcia felt that this case could possibly be solved if the DNA matched any known criminals. The DNA results do come back positive for Roland Mackey, a tow truck driver who spent two years in prison for lewd behavior and who was 18 at the time of the murder. Bosch and Rider investigate the past of both Roland Mackey and Rebecca Verloren and find no real connection, although they both lived in the same general area and Verloren, the daughter of a mixed marriage, could have been a victim of a local racist organization with ties to Mackey.
Although the evidence appears to clearly point to Mackey as being involved, Bosch is not convinced that Mackey is the killer. He and Rider develop a plan to use Mackey by scaring him with a newspaper article about the DNA evidence without saying whose it is to see if Mackey will lead them to the actual killer. Their plans don’t end up as they had planned and Bosch and Rider end up in some potential trouble with their supervisors.
Bosch’s investigations also lead him into one of his old nemeses, Deputy Chief Irvin Irving. Apparently, some pressure had been put on the original detectives to not investigate potential race issues and Bosch finds out that Irving was involved. Irving has been relegated to a less important position by the new Police Commissioner who is responsible for getting Bosch back in the Department. Irving is obviously not happy about his own position or having Bosch back in the Department and he is hoping that Bosch fails. Irving sees Bosch’s inevitable failure as a way to disgrace the new Commissioner and a way for him to get his wish of taking over as the Commissioner. This puts a little extra pressure on Bosch as he tries to solve the case, especially with his initial problems when the setup of Roland Mackey does not go as planned and when he recognizes Irving’s past influence in the case.
Bosch and Rider work together to solve this murder with the typical Connelly twists. Definitely an enjoyable read for all, especially fans of Harry Bosch.
I’m a big fan of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books. Of course, I like everything that Connelly has written (even Chasing the Dime) and I’ve read them all. The Closers is another quality effort that appears to be giving Connelly a new approach to what he likes to write best in Bosch. This book didn’t seem to grab me as much as some others, mostly I think because Connelly had to spend some time establishing the new “closers” program. Although I was not disappointed in the two Bosch "in retirement" books, Connelly apparently prefers Bosch at the LAPD and presumably future books will have Bosch solving more old unsolved cases, including some of the ones Bosch couldn’t solve in his past.
- Amazon readers rating: from 224 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Closers at the author's website(back to top)
(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer MAY 15, 2004)
“I think maybe I only know one thing in this world. One thing for sure. And that is that the truth does not set you free. I knew this going in on the day I took the case that would lead me into the narrows. I knew that my life’s mission would always take me to the places where evil waits, to the places where the truth that I might find would be an ugly and horrible thing.”
The Poet makes a return in The Narrows, bringing together three of Michael Connelly’s key characters, making this a most rewarding read for any longtime Michael Connelly fan. Former head of the FBI Behavioral Unit, Robert Backus, also known as the Poet, is a most terrifying killer, and one that got away. When Connelly introduced him in his first stand-alone novel, Harry Bosch was not involved. He is now.
As those who read The Poet, may recall Robert Backus was Rachel Walling's mentor. She is the one that shoots Backus. Unfortunately she’d also slept with Rocky Mountain reporter Jack McEvoy, and that, with some other mistakes, has landed her in one hardship posting after another. If Backus hadn’t sent a GPS locator in her name to the FBI, she might never have heard of the Poet's return at all...but it’s obvious that he has a part for her to play, and the FBI want to use her as bait. Even if she knew, she wouldn’t care...all that matters is that she’s back on the case.
Harry Bosch is asked by Terry McCabe’s widow to look into the death of her husband, who fans will remember, is the star of the book (and movie) Blood Work. Terry, the recipient of a heart transplant, had been taking pills to keep his body from rejecting this gift. The pills that were supposed to keep him alive were emptied out and replaced with shark cartilage...and he died as a consequence of it. As Harry looks over the remnants of Terry’s life...cases that he never solved, profiles he voluntarily created for other detectives, Harry finds something that leads him to the Nevada desert ...and right to where the FBI are exhuming the Poet’s latest victims.
Connelly has some fun with this book, in that he ties in, not only The Poet and Blood Work (the book); but, also Blood Work (the movie). Those of you who are familiar with both versions of Blood Work know that the endings are entirely different...in the script they cut out the character who ends up being the killer in the book. Connelly creates the movie’s killer as a character in The Narrows which, because I saw the movie, made me wince whenever Harry spent any time alone with him. In fact, Connelly writes of him in ways that make him seem positively sneaky, so that suspicion is -- lightly -- directed towards him. My point is, though, how Connelly makes these fictional realities come together. Rachel reads The Poet on the plane, well thumbed because it’s not just the case that ruined her life, but it is written by the man she once loved (McEvoy). Graciela complains how the movie script made her into a waitress instead of a nurse...a profession she takes great pride in. Harry mentions how Clint Eastwood playing Terry gave the ex-FBI agent a lot of notoriety, we also get to see how this impacted his life. Connelly isn't correcting the movie script, he's just enjoying adding context. If, like me, you saw the movie after you read the book, your details might be fuzzy...and so you’re wondering how the bad guy came back from the dead and why is everyone so normal about it. By making a point of the difference between the different media, he not only has a little fun, but he reminds us of what has gone on before in the “real” world.
I also liked the opportunity to be with Rachel again, a big player in The Poet. You can really feel for her...she was once at the top of her game, the mentor to another agent, Cherie Dei, an excellent profiler, but a few mistakes blown out of proportion, and the taint of being taught by a horrible socio-path ruined everything. Despite that, and despite the desire to be there when he’s tracked down, she’s not bitter about it. She wryly reminds herself of the good aspects as well as the bad of her new posts, her new life, and though this could be her big break, what really concerns her is justice. Which is wise...Backus is enjoying stalking her, and has a perverse fascination for the agent.
Being with Harry Bosch is always good, because he has a strong narrative voice, a fascination with humans that isn’t always involved with their sins. I love how he’s developing as time goes by...for instance, how his love of his newly discovered daughter is changing his perspective. The only thing I would say is I miss Terry. I liked McCaleb a lot, and though he has a ghost-like presence -- Harry refers to him as a silent partner -- I know I’m going to miss him.
The Narrows cleverly combines two seemingly unrelated plots and many past characters, wrapping up some story lines -- sort of like spring cleaning, I guess -- while reforging the direction of the series with the promise of things to come.
- Amazon readers rating: from 233 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Narrows at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 31 2003)
Harry Bosch, who retired from the LAPD in Michael Connelly's City of Bones (2002), spends the first eight months of his retirement hoping for the phone call that never comes from his former employers. Harry doesn't want his job back; he just wants someone to seek his guidance. Although he obtained the P.I. license that most retired policeman get, he really has no inclination to use it until he receives a surprise call from Lawton Cross, a permanently injured former LA Robbery-Homicide detective about a case they both had worked on 4 years previously.
When Bosch retired, he took copies of information on a number of cases he worked on that he had never closed. Solving murders is critical to Bosch's existence and his failures continue to bother him, including the murder of Angella Benton, a case he worked on before turning it over to Lawton Cross and his partner Jack Dorsey. This case has haunted Bosch, especially for the way he found the hands on Angella's body.
"But it was her hands that I would remember the most. Somehow when her lifeless body was dropped to the tile her hands fell together. Off to the left side of her body, they were directed upward from her head, as if she were reaching out to someone, almost beseechingly, begging for something. They looked like hands form a Renaissance painting, like the hands of the damned reaching heavenward for forgiveness. In my life, I have worked almost a thousand homicides and no positioning of a fallen body ever gave me such pause."
After Bosch receives the call from Cross, he begins the detailed process of researching his own files and conducting interviews of key people involved in the original investigations. As in the original investigations, the murder of Benton is tied to a robbery at the movie company where she worked. However, this time Bosch is working from the outside and the level of cooperation he receives, especially within the LAPD and FBI is different. Kiz Rider, his former partner, is cool to Harry as she is still angry about his sudden retirement. The FBI is also uncooperative, especially when Bosch uncovers a potential tie to terrorists that leads him into significant confrontation with a post-9/11 FBI.
This book sucks you in and pulls you along to the end. Following Harry as he uncovers clues and pieces them together, sometimes unsuccessfully, is very entertaining and thought provoking. Seeing Harry working his way through the various clues, dealing with his friends, former friends and colleagues and the antagonistic FBI is vintage Harry with a new twist of now working from the outside.
Harry spends a considerable amount of time in the book thinking wistfully about his former wife, Eleanor Wish. Bosch clearly still loves his ex-wife, believing in the single bullet theory:
"I'm a believer in the single-bullet theory. You can fall in love and make love many times but there is only one bullet with your name etched on the side. And if you are lucky enough to be shot with that bullet then the wound never heals.
Roy Lindell might have had Martha Gessler's name on a bullet. What I do know is that Eleanor Wish had been my bullet. She had pierced me through and through. There were other women before and other women since but the wound she left would not heal right. I was still bleeding and I knew I would always bleed for her. That was just the way it had to be. There is no end of things in the heart."
Wish does make an appearance in the book when Harry hides from the FBI in Las Vegas, where she "works" as a professional gambler. Eleanor meets with him and does what Harry asks, but her evasiveness makes Harry uneasy. The reasons for Eleanor's demeanor are revealed in the book, but it's too critical a part of the book to be discussed here.
The Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly are definite favorites of mine. I've not been disappointed by any of them to date and Lost Light is another quality effort. Although another dark story, Lost Light does provide some interesting and more positive glimpses into the real Harry Bosch. The only negative for me is that I'll have to wait at least another year before Connelly publishes another one, assuming he writes another.
- Amazon readers rating: from 188 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Lost Light at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
"City Of Bones"
(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer MAY 22, 2002)
At the top of the page she had written "City of Bones."
Bosch reached down and tapped the chart where she had written the caption. "Why do you call it that?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Because we're setting out the streets and the blocks of what will become a city to us," she said, running her fingers over some of the lines on the chart in illustration...
Bosch nodded. "In every murder is the tale of the city," he said.
Hollywood Detective Harry Bosch is called out to investigate a bone turned up by a dog. Not an occurrence to worry about usually, but the dog's owner is a doctor, and he is certain that the bone is a human child's. The bones are unearthed and the findings are even more tragic - the bones show years of trauma from physical abuse. Bosch, himself an orphan, swears that he will find the killer. He's working against time, for the evidence has been buried in the ground for twenty years, making a cold case like this nearly impossible to solve. He's also facing pressures from the media, who are entranced by the case, digging for every possible lead, and the deputy chief who wants the case cleaned up quickly. Even when they get a fortunate tip that leads to the identity of the victim, the case has only just begun. Bosch and his partner Jerry Edgar must follow the clues, entering into a world of terrible abuse, where two tragic deaths force Bosch to question himself and his methods.
Harry, in this latest addition to the series seems to be more than adequate at handling the problems. He's very charming...intelligent, quiet, and without any major flaws. He handles the situations thrown at him with bravery as well as brains. Jerry Edgar can be a little impulsive and judgmental, but they work very well together, and Edgar's personality is a good foil for Bosch. I particularly enjoyed some of the banter between the two. Some of his other characters --- Bosch's boss Grace Billits, rookie Julia Brasher and Kiz Ridder are very likable. Often, I find that a male writer tends to make police women tetchy and offensive. Bosch's police women are mostly capable and smart.
Connelly's true gift lies in plotting. He kept me turning the pages, guessing at who the murderer was. Between the action scenes we spend time with Harry and his budding relationship with Julia Brasher. Some of their conversations are wistful, creating a pretty believable budding romance.
The police procedural aspects are very well done. You feel as if the people working with Bosch have a firm understanding of what they're doing. Connelly also shows us a real understanding of office politics - and the dangers of displeasing one's superiors.
City of Bones is my first foray into Harry Bosch's world. I am looking forward to catching up with him in some of his past books, as well as reading any new ones coming up.
- Amazon readers rating: from 223 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from City of Bones at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
LAPD Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch Series
- The Black Echo (1992)
- The Black Ice (1993)
- The Concrete Blonde (1994)
- The Last Coyote (1995)
- Trunk Music (1997)
- Angels Flight (1999)
- A Darkness More than Night (2001) *
- City of Bones (2002) /
- Lost Light (2003)
- The Narrows (2004)
- The Closers (2005)
- Echo Park (2006)
- The Overlook (2007)
- Nine Dragons (2009) ****
- The Drop (2011)
- The Black Box (November 2012)
- The Lincoln Lawyer (2005) /
- The Brass Verdict (2008) **
- The Reversal (2010) **
- The Fifth Witness (2011)
- The Gods of Guilt (October 2013)
* Terry McCaleb is in these novels
** Harry Bosch is in these novels
*** The Poet is in these novels.
****Mickey Haller is in this novel
Movies from Books:
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Reviews of stand-alone Michael Connelly books:
- MostlyFiction.com review of Bloodwork
- MostlyFiction.com review of Chasing the Dime
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Scarecrow
Reviews of lawyer Mickey Haller books:
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Brass Verdict
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Lincoln Lawyer
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Reversal
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Fifth Witness
Reviews of Harry Bosch books:
- MostlyFiction.com review of City of Bones
- MostlyFiction.com review of Lost Light
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Narrows
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Closers
- MostlyFiction.com review of Echo Park
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Overlook
- MostlyFiction.com review of Nine Dragons
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Drop
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About the Author:
Michael Connelly graduated from the University of Florida with a major in journalism and a minor in creative writing and went on to work for major newspapers in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale. After being shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize, Connelly was snatched up by the LA Times and began to work the crime beat in the city his literary hero Raymond Chandler had immortalized. His first novel, The Black Echo, written three years later, went on to win the Edgar Award for best first novel by the Mystery Writers of America. Connelly's books have won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Nero, Maltese Falcon (Japan), .38 Caliber (France) and Grand Prix (France) awards. Michael was also one of the creators, writers, and consulting producers of Level 9, a TV show about a task force fighting cyber crime that ran on UPN in the Fall of 2000.
Connelly lives with his wife and daughter in Florida.