The Overlook by Michael Connelly

May 5, 2009

the-overlook The latest Michael Connelly book that I listened to in audio form was the 2007 novella The Overlook, featuring LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch. Apparently, this work was originally published as a serial in the New York Times Magazine, and then was made commercially available in the usual hardcover, paperback, and audiobook formats. As a result of its serial roots, this book is considerably shorter than other that Connelly has written, so the action is pretty much nonstop. Unfortunately, the fast pace didn’t help overcome the story’s inherent plot problems, making this novella rather forgettable — especially given some of the other, more solid entries in the series.

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Det. Harry Bosch is back, and his career in the LAPD is just as tenuous as ever after the Echo Park debacle of a year or so before. That case led to the transfer of Bosch’s old partner, Kiz Rider, to administrative work, so now Bosch has a new guy, 30-year-old Ignacio Ferras, to deal with. Ferras actually seems like a keeper, though, and doesn’t give Bosch any problems.

The first case they work together involves the murder of physicist Stanley Kent, who was found gunned down execution-style in front of his car on a Mulholland Drive overlook. It doesn’t take long before investigators learn that Kent was in charge of handling an extremely dangerous radioactive substance called cesium — and that all the cesium at his disposal is now missing. Because evidence points to the possibility that the crime was committed by terrorists who have a bigger plot in mind, the FBI is soon called in, led by Bosch’s ex-flame Rachel Walling.

Bosch and Walling ended things on a sour note, so there’s definite tension in their dealings with each other. But they manage to put their differences aside in order to catch the bad guys and save L.A. from potential destruction. In his usual way, Bosch manages to “see through the bullshit” and find the answers “in the details”.

Liked:

  • Just 16 chapters at 3,000 words each made for very quick reading.
  • Because of these space constraints imposed by the New York Times Magazine, Connelly didn’t have the opportunity to go off on the various tangents that annoyed me in his other books, such as romantic interludes and countless confrontations between Bosch and other cops.
  • Harry Bosch’s cell phone number is 323-244-5631. If you call the number, you’ll hear a message that says, “This is Harry Bosch. If you have information about the Overlook case, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Thank you.” Pretty cool!
  • The cesium angle actually seemed interesting. I wish Connelly would have followed through on it.

Disliked:

  • Turning the whole crime into some elaborate setup to get rid of the husband and pave the way for “the other man” seemed far too outlandish. As I said above, the cesium angle was much, much better and should have been allowed to play out.
  • Some of Bosch’s personality traits still bug me. For instance, he had no problem assaulting and cuffing an FBI agent for no reason except to be an assertive Alpha-male jackass, but got his panties in a bunch when the FBI locked him in an interrogation room. If he dishes it out, he should be able to take it.
  • This is not on Connelly, of course, but the reader alternated between pronouncing Ferras’ name as “Ferris” and “Fair-ass”, which drove me up the freaking wall.
  • Everything hinged on a yoga poster?? Are you kidding me? Instead of hogtying Alicia Kent in a yoga position, why not just bind her wrists and ankles together in a more conventional way or tie her to the bed? It still would have looked believable without causing too much pain or damage no matter how long it took the cops to find her.

Rating:
The Overlook is not one of the better Harry Bosch novels, but was still readable despite the terrible plot twist and ending. If you’re new to the series, you probably shouldn’t start with this book. If you’ve been reading Connelly all along, then of course you’ll read this no matter what I say. But just in case you’re wondering, I give The Overlook 3 stars out of 5.

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