Michael Connelly

The Black Ice

The Black IceUtterly selected, from the uncomfortably vast to-be-read-pile, at random, imagine my amusement when this book has bullfighting scenes in it. Heh. Two books in a row with bullfighting. The Black Ice by Michael Connelly is the second novel in the famous Harry Bosch series. It was first published in 1993, I read the first book in the series in 2009. (I gave The Black Echo 3 stars).  I have been trying, for the last year or more, to get through hangers-on and “book twos” that have piled up on the everywhere in the house. I do try to read more science fiction than crime or literary fiction or whatever else, but I have also been making an effort to read more thrillers and crime lately. I do not want to become a one-trick pony. Well, and 2020 just seems to be science fiction enough…………….

So, the other reason I mentioned that I do not read much crime is because I do not feel I am an expert reader-judge of crime novels. There are readers who exclusively read crime and police procedurals and so their judgment is probably more fine-tuned than mine. Nevertheless, I feel I can add to the commentary on this novel.

The pacing was very slow. I know that it takes time to unravel a multi-layered storyline with a lot of players. I know that this is a crime/police-procedural novel and not an action thriller. However, I was well past halfway into the novel before the pace was even moving. I do not always think the pace of a novel needs to be fast in order to be good. In fact, many times, I enjoy lush worldbuilding and intricate plots. However, in this particular novel, I felt Harry drank a lot of coffee, but yet was still in slow-motion.

The plot is multi-layered and the reader gets more clues, slowly, right alongside Harry. The storyline is just not very interesting. I mean, its not a gripping read whatsoever. So, within the first three chapters, the reader should realize that the introductory crime is not a suicide.  One would expect that a suspicious death of a policeman would ignite a real jet rocket in the LAPD and with our star detective.  Okay, so, there may be a departmental desire to wrap up the investigation neatly and quietly – but who expects it to be so dull? I get what Connelly was doing with the plot, I think there are some interesting facets to this story (I’m not going to mention them here and spoil the read for others), but overall, it reads very dull.  So, because of the not-all-that exciting plot and the slow pacing, I gave the book two stars.

The resolution is interesting. I mean, I think some savvy readers probably guessed what was going on. I am utterly horrible at that sort of thing, so it was a fairly interesting reveal for my reading experience. Other expert crime readers were probably all over it! Still, it kind of really just falls flat. No big crescendo whatsoever. The denouement was tedious and caused suffering. Basically at the final event, Bosch has to explain everything to his superior about the case (obviously, for the sake of the reader).

Now this next comment is me really nitpicking, but there are several points in this novel that I found myself wondering about the time of the story, is it day or night? Because it does seem like Bosch has not slept in several nights. Now, I know very well how it feels to subsist on 4-hour night sleeps for nights on end – or even going without sleep for nights. The fact that Harry (no matter how much coffee he guzzles) is as functional as he is, is rather implausible. And his “insomnia” throws off the pacing of the novel because its unclear how many days have passed.

I plan to read more Bosch novels. I am sure this is one of the lesser Bosch reads and I have great confidence that many in the series are excellent novels. Besides, the main character is interesting to a point. I like his jazz business. In this novel, we get backstory regarding his parents and youth – which is valuable to serious readers/fans of this series – so it probably is a necessary read for Bosch enthusiasts (are there such people?) I recommend this for LAPD crime fans and fans of Mexico-California border storyline readers.

2 stars

The Black Echo

black echoI finished this book in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Michael Connelly’s “The Black Echo.” I have no idea why I picked it, kinda felt like I was in the mood for some crime and detectives and what have you. Stepped away from science fiction for a minute. Anyway, the synopsis is: For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland dam is more than another anonymous statistic. The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam “tunnel rat.” Joining with an enigmatic female FBI agent, pitted against enemies within his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him.

It is the first book in the Harry Bosch series, I am uncertain if it was Michael Connelly’s first. It was published in 1992. I am always quite a bit more lenient with my reviews when I know its the first book in a series or a debut novel. I realize it takes time to develop a character and that the author learns more as he goes. That being said, there were whole sections of the book that weren’t “bad,” but they weren’t all that interesting. And perhaps its the topic. Bosch does have reflections on his time in Vietnam, and while those sections are not tedious or poorly written, they bore me. I am sick of “heroes” from pasts in Nam. The book doesn’t move very quickly and, quite honestly, there is very little suspense. This is not edge-of-your seat riveting.

The ending has a twist. It was not all that surprising. It surprised me a little only because I am always surprised by such things in movies and books. I guess an astute crime-fiction/police procedural reader would have picked it up in the first quarter of the book. I felt that the actual bad-guy’s motives were not really all that strong. Revenge and justice make sense, yes, but not enough for all of this. I don’t know. It was somewhat sloppily tied together – not compelling.

Bosch is a pretty good character, I hope the rest of the time we do not have to dredge up the Vietnam history stuff. He smokes like a damned chimney, though. I almost couldn’t breathe from all the “third-hand” smoke coming through the pages. I did like the little symbolism given to us between Bosch and the painting. That was something I could appreciate.

I do intend to read more of Connelly.

3 stars