Book Review — The Black Echo by Michael Connelly


The war in Vietnam changed the United States. There is really no escaping that reality. The war and all of the politics that surrounded it was one of the most disheartening times in this nation’s history. the optimism and spirit that had driven this nation for so long took a shocking blow during that era. It impacted everything from American music to literature. And thus, the effects of the war in Vietnam are the driving force behind Michael Connelly’s first novel, The Black Echo. While Connelly is undoubtedly a great writer and does a fantastic job illustrating the lasting effect of Vietnam on our nation, The Black Echo fails to deliver in that it is plagued by very predictable and cliche story and characters.

The Black Echo is most certainly not a bad novel, and at times is a good one. However, there is nothing strong or overly unique about it. The story is one heard a thousand times: body is found, it looks to be an open and shut case but the detective decides to look deeper into it discovering it to be a massive conspiracy,  and the crooks have an inside man in the FBI or LAPD. Its a story that works but one that really is somewhat overdone. Even the plot twists at the end were pathetically predictable — I had figured out who the inside man was probably 300 pages before it was revealed. There is very little mystery to be found in this book despite it being a mystery novel.

The primary character in this tale, as in most Connelly books, is Harry Bosch. Bosch is a Vietnam war veteran and detective for the LAPD. While Bosch is most certainly an entertaining character to read, he comes across as almost ridiculously cliche. He’s an old school outlaw cop, he plays by his own rules, internal affairs wants his head on their wall,etc. If there ever was a cardboard cutout for a  detective in a gritty mystery novel, it would be Bosch. Other characters aren’t much better — though still entertaining.

Connelly’s writing is undeniably good. The reader is always anticipating the next word and is constantly engrossed. Its the writing itself that keeps the book from falling completely flat. Some of what Connelly deals with relating to the Vietnman war is moving. While this most certainly isn’t William Shakespeare, Connelly knows what he’s doing and knows how to write a good book and bring up some powerful themes.

The Black Echo definitely isn’t a bad novel. However, its not really a good one either. This is the kind of book that scream’s average. From the story to the characters, there is nothing particularly amazing or genius to be found here. That said, I would still have to recommend this to  all Connelly fans as it is a worthy effort. While not the best mystery novel, The Black Echo is quite readable and a good book to pass the time with.

Content: R for mature thematic elements, language, and some sexuality and violence


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