Michael Connelly’s first Harry Bosch novel: the backstory

Harry Bosch novel - the black echo - michael connelly

Of the thirty-one novels Michael Connelly has written to date since 1992, twenty-two feature LAPD detective Harry Bosch. If you’ve only read one or more of the most recent entries in the series, you may be interested to know that from his first appearance in fiction, Bosch’s character, the rudiments of the formula Connelly employs throughout, and some of the characters who follow him throughout the series all are on display.

In The Black Echo, Harry is a twenty-year veteran of the force, “the famous Harry Bosch, detective superstar, a couple books written about his cases. TV movie. A spinoff series.” He is “an outsider in an insider’s job.” Harry has bought a house in the hills with money he received for the film made about his work, and he has already alienated most of the cops who work with him, especially the brass in LAPD headquarters at Parker Center. He is under investigation by Internal Affairs, not for the first time and certainly not for the last.


The Black Echo (Harry Bosch #1) by Michael Connelly

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The Black Echo, the first Harry Bosch novel, tells the tale of a protracted and difficult investigation into a daring year-old bank heist. As the investigation unfolds, complications steadily arise. Harry is doggedly pursued by two thuggish detectives from Internal Affairs. Key characters are murdered. Harry becomes close to Eleanor Wish, the FBI special agent with whom he is paired in the investigation. (In later novels, she will become his wife and mother of his daughter.) And the case takes on implications that go far beyond Los Angeles. It’s an engrossing and suspenseful story.

More importantly, however, The Black Echo serves to provide the backstory about Harry’s combat experience in Vietnam early in the 1970s. The “black echo” of the title crops up again and again, reflecting Harry’s deployment as a “tunnel rat” pursuing Vietcong soldiers through the network of tunnels they have dug throughout much of the country. “Out of the blue and into the black is what they called going into a tunnel,” Connelly writes. “Each one was a black echo. Nothing but death in there. But, still, they went.”

Harry explains further in a conversation with Eleanor: “It was the darkness, the damp emptiness you’d feel when you were down there alone in those tunnels. It was like you were in a place where you felt dead and buried in the dark. But you were alive. And you were scared. Your own breath kind of echoed in the darkness, loud enough to give you away. Or so you thought. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. Just . . . the black echo.”

For additional reading

You may also be interested in my review of a later book in the series. It’s at Michael Connelly’s best Harry Bosch novel?

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