Sunday, February 26, 2012

Echo Park (audio book) by Michael Connelly, read by Len Cariou

Once again, I've started a series significantly further in than I'd like - this is the 12th book in Connelly's Harry Bosch series. I could tell there were some character relationships I might have had a better appreciation for if I had read the earlier books, but I thought character relationships were explained well enough that I didn't feel lost.

Synopsis:

Harry Bosch is now part of the Open-unsolved Unit. As someone who believes strongly in "the way of the true detective," he feels strongly about every case he is unable to wrap up. One particular case, involving the murder of a young woman early in his career, has come back to haunt him.

When the DA contacts him about interviewing a man, Raynard Waits, who has confessed to her murder, Bosch is both reluctant to get involved and unable to turn away. He's reluctant, because one of the conditions of the confession and information about the location of the body (and many others) is that Waits won't get the death sentence. Although helping a killer avoid death leaves a bad taste in Bosch's mouth, Bosch agrees to help, because the victims might not otherwise get any justice at all.

Things don't go as planned, and it's not long before Bosch suspects that someone involved in the case is dirty. Bosch somehow has to figure out what's true and what isn't before more people die.

Review:

I almost quit listening to this book during, I think, disc 4, because it looked like things were going to go directions I didn't particularly want to deal with in audio book form. Waits had just described what he'd done to the victim from one of Bosch's old cases (one word: necrophilia). He ended by saying that was just the start of what he'd done, and that what he had to say about how he'd dealt with his other victims would be worse. If that were true, I didn't know that I wanted to hear about it all.

I persevered, though, and found myself hooked by all the twisty paths this case took. Every time Bosch thought he knew what was going on, he found out something new that changed things. It got to the point where, whenever Bosch started acting like the newest bit of information was absolute truth, I rolled my eyes a little, because who knew what the next developments would bring?

Most of the book's characters didn't grab me in such a way that I felt the need to read more in this series just to get to know them better. Rachel Walling, an FBI agent and old flame of Bosch's, is around for a good bit of the book, and she and Bosch try to rekindle their relationship. Although their relationship didn't really interest me all that much, I did appreciate that it didn't get in the way of their ability to communicate as professionals. I was a little amused when, shortly after having sex (off-page), they spend time watching a tape of Bosch interviewing a man he thought had done the murder Waits confessed to committing. Perfect movie for a date, right?

I think Kiz Rider, Bosch's partner, actually got less story time than Rachel, so I didn't get to know her quite as well (and it's not like I felt I even knew Rachel all that well – she was mostly a professional presence rather than a personal one). She seemed to be the more computer-literate side of the partnership and was less emotionally connected to the case than Bosch. According to the handy little chart in Wikipedia, Kiz is in at least four books in the series. I'm vaguely curious about whether she gets a larger part in any of those other books, but I think I'd probably be more interested to read how Bosch adapts to new partners.

One of the big things I liked about this book was all the police procedural stuff. I'm not a police officer myself and don't know one personally, so I can't say for sure how accurate any of it is, but it all came across as realistic to me. If you're annoyed by the way fancy technology seems to solve everything in a lot of crime shows on TV anymore, you'll probably like the bit, as I did, where Bosch and Rachel spent hours going through water-damaged documents looking for the information Bosch needed, not even knowing if it was still readable.

I may have to see about reading the next book in the series, if only to find out whether Bosch really did what Rachel accused him of having done. I don't know that the next book would necessarily reveal that, but it would be interesting to see if Bosch were more inclined to do things that didn't fit well with “the way of the true detective” (a phrase that struck me as a little silly and boyish every time it came up, although it's a big part of Bosch and how he sees himself). I was a little surprised at how unaffected Bosch seemed by Rachel's final decision and words, but, then again, the book ended not long after that and Bosch couldn't really confide all of that to Kiz. For one thing, I don't know if their relationship was such that they ever confided much personal stuff to each other, and, for another, Kiz had her own big life changes to worry about.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. My library has more audio books in this series, so I'll probably listen to those at some point.

I thought Len Cariou did a good job as the reader for this book. His voice fit perfectly as Bosch, although all his voices for female characters sounded a bit...weak. It made it a little hard for me to take Rachel seriously.

As far as content goes, like I said, there's no on-page sex, but there is some strong language. It's not something I usually worry over in my reading choices, but I tend to listen to audio books on CD over my computer's speakers, rather than with headphones or earbuds.

Read-alikes:
  • The Night of the Dance (book) by James Hime - Another book involving a cold case that people suddenly want to close because it's an election year. It takes place in a small town in Texas rather than in L.A., and one of the main characters is a retired Texas Ranger. I haven't read this.
  • Kill the Messenger (book) by Tami Hoag - Another one I haven't read. I've added it to the list because, like Echo Park, it's a police procedural that takes place in L.A. It sounds like it has an interesting mix of characters.
  • Lonely Hearts (book) by John Harvey - This is the first book in Harvey's Charlie Resnick series. Again, I haven't read the book or anything else by the author. This is another police procedural series, although it takes place in England.
  • Knots and Crosses (book) by Ian Rankin - Everywhere I look for Michael Connelly read-alikes, I come across more authors whose works I haven't read. Here's another one, although I think I've at least watched a little of the TV show based on the series. This is the first book in Rankin's John Rebus series. It's a police procedural that takes place in Edinburgh and stars a flawed detective who is investigating a serial killer

2 comments:

  1. I haven't listened to many books on audio before. That said, I have read all of Michael Connelly's books and I must admit I'm hooked. Great review!

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    Replies
    1. I prefer to read most books, rather than listen to them, because a bad reader can make an otherwise decent book unbearable. However, I have a job where it's possible for me to listen to books while working (I'm so lucky!), and some readers can be so good that they make the book even more enjoyable. I don't know that I'll be reading print version of Connelly's books, but this one made for engaging work-time listening. :)

      Thanks for the comment!

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