About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Harry Bosch: The First Twenty Years

In my last post on Thursday I put up a review of the first Harry Bosch mystery, Black Echo. A few weeks ago I posted a review on the latest in the series, The Drop. I have been reflecting on Bosch. It has been 20 years since Connelly created Bosch.

It was interesting to go back to read the first in a long running series where I have read most of the other books. I found myself understanding later developments better from reading the opening mystery. I was reminded why I try to read series sequentially. 

Seeing Irving’s efforts to get Bosch fired in Black Echo makes it clear why Bosch was so surprised in The Drop to have Irving reach out to him to lead the investigation into the death of Irving’s son.

It is striking in Black Echo how Bosch is a chain smoker who can barely stay in a room without lighting up a cigarette.

Right from the start of the series Bosch has the appealing trait of fearlessness. He can neither be intimidated by superiors nor criminals. I believe he attracts readers as a person who speaks bluntly, especially to authority, what many, more polite and careful, wish they would say to those who seek to control them. I have met a few men like Bosch in real life who have been equally unafraid. All but one were big powerful men who been tested physically to the limit and met the challenge.

Physical danger has never deterred Bosch as a detective. At times he verges on the recklessly brave. Being a tunnel rat in Vietnam burned the fear of death out of Bosch. He is a man you would want beside you in a dangerous situation.

Still, even Bosch’s stubborn attitudes to authority are affected by life. In Black Echo he is willing to take chances in his investigation and does not worry about being fired. By The Drop superiors would undoubtedly still see him as insolent but Bosch is trying to adjust a lifetime of disdain for the system to use the bureaucracy to maximize the length of his career.

Life is hard for perfectionists. Bosch is no exception. Nothing but precise investigations satisfy him. He antagonizes partners and supervisors with his intolerance of average police work.

Bosch is a hard man in Black Echo without the family around that helps soften him in The Drop. It is hard to think of the driven, often caustic Bosch of Black Echo being the affectionate father of the teenage Maddie two decades later in The Drop. If Bosch did not have Maddie I worry what would happen to him when he is forced to retire in 3 years. It to Connelly’s credit Bosch can credibly change in his personal life over two decades.

From Black Echo to The Drop Bosch works by the principle everyone counts or no one counts. He believes all victims of violent crime deserve a careful thorough investigation.

While readers would want Bosch investigating the murder of a loved one he remains so driven through the whole series it is hard to see going out with him for a beer. Of course, Bosch could care less whether someone wanted to spend time with him.

In both books, as common in many of Connelly’s books in the series, the identity and character of the bad guys is revealed relatively late in the book.

One of the distinctions through the series involves the character of the bad guys. In Black Echo there are realistic multi-dimensional bad people. In The Drop the bad guy is almost a cartoon character being nothing but evil.

I hope Connelly creates villains worthy of Bosch in coming books. While Elvis Cole is a self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Detective I would say Bosch is L.A.’s Greatest Detective. Cartoon style bad guys should be left for the lesser detectives of southern California.

Bosch appears destined to spend his senior years alone. His work obsessed character has made a long term female relationship impossible over the past 20 years. In The Drop he tries to slow down but is soon seeking ways for Maddie to get by without him at home. I wonder if Connelly is setting up Bosch to ease the pace of life abit and find a lady with whom to share his life.


  1. Bill - What a well-thought out perspective/retrospective on Harry Bosch. He is one of my favourite crime-fictional characters and I am very glad you profiled him. One of the things I like best about him is that he is dogged. He doesn't have superpowers but he simply does not give up. That and his sense, as you say, that everyone counts or no-one does, are two of his most appealing qualities, at least to me.

  2. You nailed it on what I like best about Harry Bosch. His principles, his assurance, his perfectionism in handling cases and more importantly, getting justice for his victims. I'm behind but The Last Coyote was a personal book for him and I thought one of the best so far in that series for me (I'm sadly at Angel's Flight if I were to restart). It's good to know that Bosch is a father now and he never seemed to lack for female companionship but I hope he finds that special woman to settle down with, too. Thanks for this post and sharing your perspective on what happens to be a very popular character. Is there anyone like Bosch? I don't think so. I really must get back to reading him again. Keishon

  3. Margot: Thanks for your interesting comment. You identify two qualities that are important in making him a fascinating character for 20 years.

  4. Keishon: Thanks for your generous comment. You know a character has become part of your life when you start hoping good things happen to them in their fictional personal lives.

    I encourage you to read Angel's Flight. It is a brilliant book. I could hardly put it down.

  5. This is a great post, Bill. It is fascinating to read your views on the evolution of Bosch.
    I think this series did go through a bit of a "low" a few years ago, around the time of "Void Moon". It was still pretty good, but not quite up to its own standard. I think that at that time, Connelly was trying to make Bosch a more rounded man via his romances, but those have failed and I think his solution of the daughter as a main character works really well. I know quite a few men who are pretty tough in their professional lives but change completely where their children are concerned.

    I agree with you about Bosch as the classic "driven" detective. As Margot has mentioned, in the earlier books (immediately after The Black Echo but before he broke off with The Poet) I think that Bosch found out, or tried to, about his parents. The father theme came out much later also, in The Lincoln Lawyer. As a result of that experience, he became even more alone and isolated professionally, locked into his long-running feud with Irvin Irving. I think your point about Bosch now playing the bureaucracy, instead of simply head-butting with it, is a very astute one. I hadn't picked that up but it rings true.

    In crime fiction there is usually some element that I find lets a book down. Usually it is the resolution of the crime plot, which is often forced and unconvincing. Another common failing is the "dramatic ending" with shootouts, hero/heroine in peril (having not called for back up), etc. Connelly avoids both these pitfalls, I think - he does not usually go for the "over the top" elements. I agree that his villains can be weak as characters but personally I don't like reading too much from the "sick mind of the villain" point of view, so I am glad he does not go in for that. One book where I think Connelly did very well on the balance between horrible crimes and not being gratuitious is The Scarecrow.

    Overall, Connelly is my favourite crime fiction author and has been for years. He has not let his readers down with fame, but continues to deliver exciting and "different" books, while, as you point out, developing characters very well over a series.

  6. I just love the thought you put into your posts Bill!

    It's been ages since I've tucked in to a Bosch novel. Time to revisit the series.

  7. Maxine: Thank you for a wonderful thought filled comment.

    I think being a parent changes men and women more than any other event in their lives. Bosch is no exception.

    I agree that Connelly has good endings to most of his books.

    I thought The Scarecrow was an example of a challenging villain.

    He is among the very best at coming up with fresh developments in his books.

  8. Jill: Thanks for the kind words. When you next pick up a Connelly book make sure you have some time in front of you for you will want to keep reading.

  9. I hope you won't mind another thought on this, but I have always admired how Connelly is so cutting-edge on information technologies and on societal trends. I remember reading the book he wrote immediately after 9/11, when no other fiction author would touch the topic because it was all so raw in people's minds. Connelly weaved the (then) newly formed Department of Homeland Security into his plot and was highly critical of its running and the way in which it interfered in police investigations. That was a very brave thing to do at the time.

    I mentioned The Scarecrow above - this is a novel which I read after Connelly gave a talk about it (and other things) - he had been told by readers about the awful practice described in the book involving the internet, so he did some research and weaved this into his novel.

  10. Maxine: Thank you for the additional comment.

    Connelly has a knack for finding ways to place current issues in a meaningful way into his books.

    I thought The Scarecrow had as frightening a premise on the insecurity of sensitive data as could be devised.

  11. I came to Harry Bosch late in the game. I had read The Lincoln Lawyer and liked it a lot, and a Bosch fan suggested I read one of the classics. I did and then began reading others, while continuing to read about Mickey Haller -- with or without Bosch.

    I find his character has principles and integrity and will not stop his investigations, no matter who tries to do so.

    He will get to the truth. And he is a thinker. He's not just a doer. He thinks profoundly about the cases, social issues and more.

    This sets him apart from most fictional detectives, except perhaps Guido Brunetti and Inspector Adamsberg.

    I realize how many earlier Bosch books I must read, but I have time to do so and can parcel them out.

  12. kathy d.: Thanks for the comment. Bosch is certainly not solving crime by littering L.A. with bodies.

    I equally enjoy Bosch's reflections. It makes him more real to me.

    I think Bosch is best savoured twice yearly.