Onyx reviews: Echo Park by
The problem in reviewing an installment in an ongoing series—Echo Park is the
12th novel featuring Michael Connelly's protagonist Harry Bosch—is that much of
the groundwork for the character depends upon what has gone before. It's
virtually impossible treat the novel as an isolated entity. Though the plot may
be self-contained, the character is passing through another arc in his life
Detective Bosch is still with the Open—Unsolved Unit, investigating cold
cases after his abortive attempt at early retirement. He's obsessed by two
things these days, which is about average for him. First, he's supporting a
candidate running for City Council against his nemesis, former Deputy Chief
Irvin Irving. He's also pulled from storage—for the third time in a year—the
file for an unsolved thirteen-year-old murder case on which he and his former
partner were the primary investigators.
Marie Gesto's body was never found, though her vehicle turned up shortly
after her disappearance, parked in the garage of a landmark Hollywood apartment
complex (most famously the home of noir author Raymond Chandler and of detective
Philip Marlowe in the movie version of The Long Sleep). Though Bosch is sure
she's dead—and has a vaguely viable candidate for her killer, the son of a
wealthy businessman—the case haunts him.
He receives a call from a detective from a different division requesting the
Gesto file. The detective is acting on behalf of prosecutor Rick O'Shea, a
strong candidate in the upcoming District Attorney election. Marie Gesto has
been a part of Bosch's life for so long he can't simply turn over the file. He
has to attach himself to whatever O'Shea has planned.
A serial killer named Reynard Waits was caught red-handed with the mutilated
bodies of two women in the back of his van in Echo Park—near Dodger Stadium—and
now he wants to make a plea bargain. In exchange for having the death sentence
taken off the table, the killer will confess to setting a pawnbroker on fire
during the 1992 LA riots, the murder of Marie Gesto and nine other unknown
murders. The plea bargain fits well with O'Shea's agenda, since a trial wouldn't
take place until after the election. Resolving nearly a dozen murders will play
out very well in the media.
Bosch discovers that one of the killer's aliases appears in his Gesto case
file, but no one had followed up the lead. He is haunted by the fact that he
might have caught Waits years ago and stopped the man's reign of terror. The
lives of nine murdered women weigh heavily on his conscience. The fact that he
is participating in a deal that will keep Waits alive infuriates him, but it is
the price that must be paid to close these cases. The political currency—the
boost to O'Shea's candidacy—is too strong a force to overcome.
During the field trip to unearth Gesto's body, things go bad fast. Police
officers are killed and seriously wounded—including Bosch's partner—and the
serial killer is on the loose again. With the assistance of former lover and FBI
profiler Rachel Walling, Bosch begins to suspect that he has been played—that
his well-known obsession with the Gesto case made him an easy target in a
diabolical plan to cover up the true identity of a killer. However, Bosch's
hubris gets the better of him. His single-mindedness almost proves his undoing.
Bosch is one of the more flawed protagonists in crime fiction. There are
other detectives who are equally incorruptible, compulsive and determined, but
Bosch raises these attributes to an art. Though he's frequently pushed to the
outside of investigations because of his high-handedness, he sometimes finds
himself pursuing the wrong suspects, unwilling to accept that his logic may be
faulty. His obsessive nature makes him a natural loner. Even when Walling
re-enters his life—and his bedroom—he can't stop thinking about the case long
enough to pay serious attention to their relationship. He shows her videotaped
interviews while they are in bed and spends romantic days with her burrowing
through moldy old boxes of evidence.
Waits was obsessed with killing his mother over and over again; until
recently Bosch was obsessed with finding who murdered his mother when he was
twelve. Bosch and Waits were both residents of the same orphanage, though in
different decades. During a climactic scene, Waits says that he "fed the
wrong dog. Every man has two dogs inside—one good and one bad. They fight all
the time because only one can be the alpha dog, the one in charge. The one that
wins is always the dog you chose to feed. I fed the wrong one."
In Echo Park, Bosch learns that he's probably been feeding both internal
dogs, occasionally pitting themselves against each other.
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