The basics: The Black Echo, the first novel in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, introduces readers to the LAPD homicide detective. When a dead body is discovered in a pipe, Bosch recognizes the victim as a fellow tunnel rat from his days in Vietnam. What otherwise might have been classified as a junkie dead from an overdose turns into a complicated, intriguing mystery stretching back to the Vietnam War itself.
My thoughts: Originally published in 1992, The Black Echo is a delightful time capsule into its time. As close as 1992 seems, the Vietnam War is closer to it than it is to today. This mystery is firmly grounded in the lingering impact of Vietnam, and it even takes its title from a War reference:
"Meadows was something else…. Back then, we were all just a bunch of kids, afraid of the dark. And those tunnels were so damn dark. But Meadows, he wasn’t afraid. He’d volunteer and volunteer and volunteer. Out of the blue and into the black. That’s what he said going on a tunnel mission was. We called it the black echo. It was like going to hell. You’re down there and you could smell your own fear. It was like you were dead when you were down there."As a character, Bosch is a little bit rogue, which I enjoyed. The reader slowly learns more of his back story, but I was so engrossed with the mystery, I hardly cared when or how I learned about Bosch himself. As is often the case with first-in-a-series-mysteries, the person solving the mystery has a personal connection to the victim. In this case, the connection was fascinating rather than convenient, and it drove the story deeper.
Favorite passage: "My father was in the military. Most I ever spent in one place was a couple years. So my memories aren’t really of places. They’re people."
The verdict: The Black Echo is a tight, twisty mystery whose resolution left my mouth hanging open. I enjoyed the journey as much as the payoff, and I can't wait to read Connelly's next Bosch mystery.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 484 pages
Publication date: January 21, 1992
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