Monday, July 16, 2007

Bosch is back in "The Overlook" by Michael Connelly

I have been a big fan of the author, especially in regards to this series, for quite some time. "The Black Echo" and "The Black Ice" which were his first two books in the series were, in my opinion, incredible reads. This latest read in the series can be read as a stand alone if you are new to Michael Connelly's work. If you are new, please go get the first two books. They are well worth it.

The Overlook
By Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
May 2007
ISBN # 978-0-316-01895-1
225 Pages

Detective Harry Bosch has moved to the "Homicide Special" unit of the Los Angeles Police Department. Gone are his days, at least for now, of working old cases. Operating out of Parker Center, the unit deals with cases that have political, celebrity, or media connections or cases that look very tough from the start. Lt. Larry Gandle, his new boss, calls in the middle of the night regarding such a case. Dr. Stanley Kent has been found dead at the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Matter of death was execution by impact of two bullets into the back of the head.

Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio Ferras are assigned to the case. Not only are their cultural differences and a massive gap in ages, Ferras has a young family to support. New to working with each other, when the case quickly turns into fears of terrorism, Ferras doesn't trust that Bosch is handling things correctly. Dr. Kent was a medical physicist who worked with and had access to radioactive materials that are usually used to treat cancer patients. Since such materials could be used for other things, his name among many others from across the country was on a list maintained by the FBI. Reports of his death and the circumstances surrounding it have reached the FBI. As the federal government ramps up operations, Special Agent Rachel Walling from the Tactical Intelligence Unit returns to assist.

As has been made clear many times in this series, when the FBI arrives to assist, they usually mean to take over. Such events happen here and Bosch has to deal not only with conflict with his own command structure and the FBI, but with his partner as well who doesn't approve of Bosch's methods. Ferras has a lot to think about with his family and his career and Bosch's bulldozer style is not appreciated.

Originally serialized for the "New York Times Magazine" and then expanded for this 225 page novel, this isn't Bosch at his best. I never read the serialization which, according to the note about the author at the end of the book, was "considerably expanded" for this novel. Therefore, I can't address what changes were made.

With regards to the actual novel, there is a certain flatness to the read. A certain lack of humanity, of human feeling in Bosch though he tells readers he is feeling things. That lack of human feeling extends to the discussions of the recent shared past between Walling and Bosch and where they left things, Bosch's relationship with Ferras, Bosch's new job and in many other areas. While readers are constantly told that Bosch is feeling this or that, it is never shown through character action or showed any other way, resulting in an emotionally distant read.

At the same time, the case itself is a decent one that will keep a fair amount of readers guessing to the end. Those with a cynical bent or widely read in the mystery genre will pick up on clues hinted at early in the novel which will be borne out on the end with one final twist in regards to a suspect. While a less than stellar read, Bosch not at his best is still entertaining and readers familiar with the series won't want to let this one get by unread.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

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