“The Black Echo” by Michael Connelly

Connelly, Michael. The Black Echo (1992)  
St. Martin’s, 412 pages, $7.50 paperback  
ISBN 0 312 95048 9

Harry Bosch of the LAPD, newly demoted to Hollywood detectives after 10 years in RHD—Robbery Homicide Division—catches what looks like a routine homicide. Soon, though, Bosch realizes that the corpse is Billy Meadows, whom Bosch had known 20 years earlier in Vietnam. Meadows and Bosch had both been “tunnel rats,” scouts who went down into the tunnels that connected villages throughout Vietnam:

Out of the blue and into the black. That’s what he said going on a tunnel mission was. We called it the black echo. It was like going to hell. You’re down there and you could smell your own fear. It was like you were dead when you were down there (174).

There was no name for it, so we made up a name. 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 (324).

In trying to discover why Meadows was murdered, Bosch has to go back down into the hole, where he once again hears the black echo.

The Black Echo, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel, is based in part on a real robbery that took place in Los Angeles in 1987. Although complex, the plot never seems convoluted. This is a first-rate thriller in which Connelly combines a superb plot and a dynamic character.

© 2001 by Mary Daniels Brown

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