Echo Park by Michael Connelly

April 1, 2009

echo-park I’ve been working out a lot lately, so that means I’ve been going through audiobooks on my iPod at a record pace. A friend of mine loaned me the entire Michael Connelly collection on CD a while ago, and I’ve been plugging away at the novels in chronological order ever since. The most recent title I completed was 2006’s Echo Park, meaning that there are just two more Connelly novels left to read before I’m all caught up. And while I haven’t exactly loved all of his books, I do have to say that I’m a bit saddened now that the end is near.

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Harry Bosch and Kiz Rider are still on the Open-Unsolved Unit. This time, they catch a case that was Bosch’s when it first came around to the Robbery Homicide Division thirteen years ago. It was a murder involving a young woman named Marie Gesto who was abducted while purchasing horse supplies before heading out to the stables for a ride. The clues were sparse back in 1993, but Bosch had a definite suspect, Anthony Garland, in mind. He just couldn’t get anything to nail the guy with, and eventually had to lay off because Garland’s father was a powerful, wealthy businessman who hired big-time lawyers to protect his boy.

Now a detective named Garcia is asking questions about the case. It turns out that the cops have have a serial killer in custody who is ready to confess to the Gesto murder, as well as 11 others, in exchange for the district attorney agreeing to forego the death penalty. Raynard Waits is a name that doesn’t even ring a bell with Bosch, but he still wants to hear what the guy has to say. So Bosch talks to D.A. Richard O’Shea and gets invited to the Waits interview.

During the interview, Waits admits to killing Gesto, even going so far as to provide a few details about the crime scene that were held out of the press. The only thing is, Waits insists on going on a “field trip” to show the cops where Gesto’s body is buried. If he can’t go with them, then he’s not talking any more. There’s nothing left to do but agree.

While out in the woods, Waits manages to escape, shooting Garcia and Kiz Rider in the process. As Bosch replays the interview and the incident in the woods, he notices a few details that simply don’t make sense. He decides to continue the investigation even though he has been put on “home suspension” while Internal Affairs evaluates his part in the shooting. Eventually, he catches up with Waits — and finally learns the truth about the case that has haunted him for 13 long years.

My Reaction: I thought Echo Park was a very good read for the most part. I enjoyed the mystery this time around, as the murder wasn’t as straightforward as it usually is. I also liked the fact that most of the novel focused on Raynard Waits as the suspect even though it turned out that Bosch’s initial instincts about the true killer were correct. One thing I must have missed along the way, however, was Anthony Garland’s motives for killing Gesto. What was his connection to her? Was he just a sicko out getting his kicks? I don’t remember that part.

I also liked the way Rachel Walling was used in this novel. She wasn’t officially part of the investigation, but she was still able to provide Bosch with some important insights into Waits’ psychological profile. Plus, she was around for the requisite romantic interludes that Connelly favors so much. Oh, well, better someone from Bosch’s past than a new woman that just happens to fall head over heels for him in an hour.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like about Echo Park, though. For instance, I hated the fact that Abel Pratt was involved in the whole thing. I mean, when he was first introduced in The Closers, Harry liked him and felt he was a straight-shooter. But now since Connelly loves outing dirty cops and since his favorite whipping boy Irvin Irving was no longer around, he had to go and choose Pratt. That seemed far too contrived for my tastes. Plus, I just can’t stand the fact that these dirty cops happened to be able to operate under the radar for 25 years, but as soon as they cross paths with Bosch, they’re exposed. Yeah, like he’s the only one who can sniff out corruption…. Whatever.

I didn’t like the political angle, either. I thought it was completely unnecessary to bring Irving into the picture, especially since Connelly never even followed up on the subplot to tell whether he got elected or not. The Rick O’Shea angle was a little better, and I liked how Bosch was so wrong about him. But still, the whole thing was far too steeped in election b.s.

Overall, Echo Park is one of the better Connelly novels I’ve read. It’s definitely a cut above the earlier entries in the Bosch series, and was pretty entertaining from beginning to end. I have no problem recommending this book to anyone who likes police procedurals! I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

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