Once upon a time, most of my Amazon purchases were books. Okay, most of my Amazon purchases still are, but I didn’t buy things like sneakers or coffee tables from there. It was just a book website, so it seems fitting that they’re rolling out some awesome film adaptations of books – like Bosch! I burned through the TV series, but I couldn’t wait until the nineteenth so I decided to read the book that started it all for Harry Bosch, The Black Echo by Michael Connelly.
Is it a good book? Yes, it’s worth a read. Especially, if you like the kind of thrillers that take place in a dark and scary world. Harry Bosch checks off genre cliche after genre cliche. He’s a loner. He has demons. He doesn’t really like his assigned partner, but then a femme fatale shows up. Because this book came out in the 90s, Harry served in the Vietnam War, and a lot of the subtext deals with the moral confusion of the country after Vietnam, up until the very end of the millenium. Specifically, The Black Echo sees Bosch, a former tunnel rat, chasing bank robbers through dark Los Angeles sewer tunnels. Fans of the genre, and fans of the show, can guess the ending pretty easily, but it comes about mostly organically through smart detective work. Perhaps the greatest misstep comes when Harry recognizes the first murder victim, and then other characters complain about what a coincidence it is. That small detail, much like naming minor goons Lewis and Clark, felt like a slight attempt at humor that really didn’t need to be included.
Unlike the book, Amazon’s Bosch knows that it has a long history of campy action heroes to live down, so it slices and dices elements from the book series, shrouds them in grit, and earns its action scenes. It reminds me a bit of The Wire, but maybe that’s just because Lance Reddick and Jamie Hector support leading man Titus Welliver as Chief Irvin Irving and Jerry Edgar. No one bats at an eye at those names! It could also be the novelistic writing behind both shows. Smaller, but more important details have changed in transition as well. The plot of the first book occurs in the third season. Harry Bosch has been retconned as a veteran of the First Gulf War who re-upped to serve in Afghanistan after 9/11. This changes does not diminish Harry’s military skill or dedication to honor, though it does eliminate the tunnel rat aspect of his character. Also, TV Bosch has much cleaner aesthetic to his apartment and personal appearance, which seems more in line with such a careful detective than the mustachioed old bachelor who slept in an easy chair. Though Harry’s age has changed, his marriage to Eleanor Wish has come, gone, and his daughter Maddie appears right at the beginning. Sarah Clarke as Eleanor and Madison Lintz as Maddie add an interesting new dimension to the workaholic loner, providing him with a loving family that remains just at arm’s length.
If you’ve never watched the show, I would recommend a crash course in this rigorous series before checking it out, but the show is a great way to spend a weekend in front of the TV. The emotion and the feeling of a confused country hiding it’s shame behind a layer of toughness is about the only thing that doesn’t translate to the TV series. Harry Bosch might have a long series of novels, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a look. These books, however, aren’t at all necessary for enjoying the show. The fourth season of Bosch premieres on April 19, so by the time this comes out, it will be bingeable.
Be sure to check out https://www.michaelconnelly.com/ for the next entry in the Bosch series!
Three out of five stars:
Page count: 482
Favorite quote: “The photos were of the smiling faces of young men who had dropped down into hell and come back to smile at the camera.”