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Echo Park    by Michael Connelly order for
Echo Park
by Michael Connelly
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Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Echo Park, after his brief stint as a PI, Hieronymus Bosch is back where he belongs once more with the LAPD, partnered with Kiz Rider, and working in the Open-Unsolved Unit. (His daughter's mother Elinor has taken Harry's 'shield of joy' with her to Hong Kong.)

This episode opens in 1993 on a case that remained unsolved and has haunted Harry ever since - talented young Marie Gesto disappeared on her way to go riding, and was discovered dead in a car trunk in a garage of the prestigious High Tower apartment building. Harry and his then partner Edgar caught the case, and Harry's intuition led him to suspect the violent Anthony Garland, son of wealthy and powerful oil man T.Rex Garland. Since then, Harry had regularly pulled in Anthony Garland for questioning until the latter's family obtained a restraining order against him.

Fast forward to 2006. Harry gets a call from homicide detective Freddy Olivas who is working with hotshot Special Prosecutor Rick O'Shea (now running as a candidate for District Attorney) on a high profile case, that of serial killer Raynard Waits. Waits - a predator who targeted fringe dwelling young women for years under the radar - was caught by a fluke with victims' body parts in his car. He and his lawyer are now offering a deal - to disclose the locations of previous victims' bodies (including that of Marie Gesto) in return for life in jail instead of the death penalty.

Of course, Harry pushes his way into this new case, though he disapproves of the deal being made with Waits. Seeking insights into the serial killer's mind and motivations causes Harry to reconnect - and for more than a consultation - with FBI agent/profiler Rachel Walling, with whom he shared an investigation and near death in The Narrows. Waits leads police to Marie's corpse and then all hell breaks loose, leading Harry to question what really happened and why. Rachel's input helps him to put together a very different picture than the one accepted by his bosses and colleagues.

As always, Connelly delivers violence, betrayals, and big surprises, as Harry follows 'the way of the true detective' and pushes the limits again and again. He compromises his fragile new relationship with Rachel but deals with the villains, puts some of his own ghosts to rest, and acquires a new 'guardian angel' at his back - something fans of the series know he is bound to need in future escapades.

2nd review by Tim Davis (Rating:2):

Marie Gesto is missing. Her car has been found in a garage at the High Tower Apartment Complex, but that is not Marie's home. Why was it left there? When Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch investigates the case, he soon realizes that things are not working out very well. 'I've got a bad feeling about this one,' he says. Yes, Bosch has a suspect, but his well-connected suspect has lawyered-up, and Bosch has no real evidence on which to proceed. So, with few leads and no body, the case remains unsolved.

Now, thirteen years later, Raynard Waits, a strange man with a peculiar name, who is a murder suspect in a different case, is about to make a deal. He will confess to nine unsolved murders, and the prosecutor will take the death penalty off the table. One of the crimes to which he will confess is the Marie Gesto killing.

Well, Bosch had retired a few years earlier in 2002, but he really didn't like retirement. So he is now back on the job, and he finds himself involved once again in the Marie Gesto case, the one he obsessed over during the past thirteen years. It was 'the one that stuck with him.'

Although Bosch is opposed to the deal Waits has struck with the prosecutor, Bosch reluctantly goes along with it in hopes of finally clearing the Gesto case. When Waits takes his defense attorney, the police, and the prosecutor on a field trip to Echo Park in Los Angeles, promising to show everyone where Gesto is buried, everything goes suddenly haywire. After a shootout, Waits is on the loose, cops are dead, Bosch's partner is near death in the hospital, and Bosch remains convinced that Waits has made fools of everyone. Moreover, Bosch still thinks his original suspect from thirteen years earlier is somehow involved. And that suspect's well-placed connections may actually be responsible for all that has gone wrong in the Waits and Gesto cases. Bosch, now relentless in his pursuit of the truth, is closing in on a solution to the case. But even more danger and murder are on the horizon, and Bosch will need to be extremely careful.

This is clearly Michael Connelly's best Bosch novel yet. However, I have a small confession to make: I've never been completely won over by Harry Bosch (whom I have encountered on numerous occasions prior to Echo Park). Some protagonists and their authors have rabidly loyal readers who are thoroughly smitten and full of praise; on the other hand, some protagonists and authors never gain a following (and those mercifully fade away into the publishing world's abyss of mediocrity). Clearly, though, Bosch and Connelly have millions of fans, and neither of those fellows (imagined or real) need to agonize over my somewhat less than ecstatic endorsement of their careers. Well, notwithstanding my lukewarm indifference towards Bosch, Echo Park is a top-notch mystery. Exciting and intriguing, this Bosch adventure will make fans very, very happy.

Audiobook Review by Anise Hollingshead:

Harry Bosch is personally committed to solving every case, but of course, some remain unsolved. However, he prides himself on the care and responsibility he takes for all of them. He is back with the LAPD, currently working on cold cases. After a supposed serial killer named Reynard Waits is picked up and confesses to an old murder case, Bosch is confronted with a mistake from this cold case: apparently, Waits made a call posing as a tipster to the police department soon after the murder. If the police had investigated the supposed tip, they might have discovered Waits' culpability. Waits would go on to murder nine women.

However, questions remain about the authenticity of this confession, which might be just a tool to gain points with the police on the other charges. Soon, anyone and everyone who has the remotest interest in the case begins to try to manipulate the department, Bosch, or even Waits. Bosch has to deal with their political agendas and with his own guilt.

True to previous Bosch novels, Echo Park is a solid police procedural that is dark in tone. Bosch is the same as always, serious and rather depressed. Having to confront his own fallibility makes him even more so. There are no easy answers in real life, and that is reflected in this novel. Waits knows too much about the case to be innocent, but the answer he presents is not necessarily the correct one, no matter how much everyone would like it to be. There are many surprises in this story and readers will be kept guessing until the end.

As in all Michael Connelly's books, the plotting is tight and the story taut. Connelly writes short, terse sentences, which are effective in conveying the normal give-and-take of most people's conversations. While the story has unusual and complex elements, the people involved are still ordinary and are portrayed that way.

This audio version is read by Len Cariou, who has narrated several other Connelly books starring Bosch. He is an excellent narrator, and has the voice acting down pat for all the characters. There are many dramatic turns and twists to this story, and Cariou has all the right intonations and effects. I don't listen to many audio books, but I found this one exciting and very enjoyable.

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