Friday, November 16, 2007

Echo Park, by Michael Connelly [2]


Michael Connelly's 2006 mystery ECHO PARK perpetuates many of the genre's themes though it still manages to intrigue and keep readers in suspense. You know a mystery novel will throw many curve balls at you, and you know oftentimes, the culprit is the last person you'd expect. In spite of all this, ECHO PARK still imparts interesting suspense. Michael Connelly writes a series of mystery novels on Police Detective Harry Bosch, and this is my first Connelly novel. It isn't bad, and very readable. Not a page-turner by any means, slow and steady best describes the pacing of this novel. The prose is average and the settings of Los Angeles and Echo Park fairly tame, relying on the names of real streets, neighborhoods and establishments to build the scene. The suspense keeps you interested but it isn't on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of suspense. Like most mystery novels, I found the ending protracted and anticlimactic. There's a lot of politics in the novel as the book takes place during the fall election season. Two spots up for election directly affect our protagonist Harry: the position of District Attorney and a city council seat. Much of the politics was good as it posed and postured intriguing scenarios, making the read far from cut-and-dry. I liked that the villain here isn't all bad but definitely demented. Our villain Reynard Waits accurately characterizes Harry Bosch as an "eye-for-an-eye guy." Our protagonist Harry exhibits a cold, ruthless streak and I liked that as well.

The Premise.

In 1993, Detective Harry Bosch investigates the disappearance of Marie Gesto. After discovering her car in the exterior garage of High Tower apartments where many fledgling actors live, Harry has a bad feeling about the case. They find neatly folded clothes and groceries in her Honda Accord inside the garage, but they're never able to find the body or nail down any suspects. Harry's prime suspect is Anthony Garland, the ex-boyfriend of the girl who lived in the corresponding apartment. The girl now lives in Texas and bears a resemblance to the missing Marie Gesto. Without any solid leads, evidence or a body, the department catalogues the case under unsolved.

Thirteen years later, police cops pull over Reynard Waits in his window-cleaning van late at night driving through Echo Park, a burgeoning location in LA County near Dodger stadium and Hollywood. The police accidentally discover the severed body parts of two prostitutes in bags and immediately arrest Waits. Eventually the prosecuting attorney running for election Rick O'Shea involves Harry and his Gesto case from thirteen years before. In order to avoid execution, Waits' lawyer brokers a deal in which Waits admits to murdering 9 people including Marie Gesto. In exchange for Waits' confession to the 9 murders, the state agrees to offer him life in prison instead of execution.

Harry is part of the Open-Unsolved Unit and won't give up his Gesto case without seeing it through. He's obsessed over it for some time now. O'Shea agrees to bring Harry on board, and they question Waits about the details of Gesto's murder. Waits answers all of Harry's questions adequately. A handcuffed Waits leads his lawyer and the prosecution team to Gesto's body on a field trip as the final confirmation before the prosecution team will accept Waits' confessions in exchange for life in prison. Harry is against offering Waits anything less than the needle but goes along to see his case through.

This is a mystery novel where the killer is revealed right away: 20 pages into the novel, in fact. There's more to the story obviously as politics within the police department and the upcoming election come into play. Lawyers and rich people always spin and skew public opinion, further confounding and frustrating Harry's efforts. The action is light while Harry slowly but steadily works through the clues and leads. A refreshing read in the midst of so many romances actually.

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