Originally published in 1992, The Black Echo is Michael Connelly's first mystery featuring rogue LAPD detective, Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch.
I've read this book before, possibly all the way back in 1992, and my husband and I listened to the audiobook more recently on a car trip after I got the first two in the series for $1.99 during an audible sale. The Black Echo introduces many of the long-running series characters, including Irvin Irving, Jerry Edgar, Harry's well-dressed, ambitious partner slash real estate agent, Pounds, and Eleanor Wish. At the time that this book begins, Harry is 40 years old, and has been banging his head against the wall of the LAPD management for years.
There is a lot going on, plotwise. Harry draws a case of a body found in a drainage tunnel, and realizes as he is at the crime scene that the victim is someone that he served with as a "tunnel rat" in Vietnam. Much of this book is given over to developing the characters and Los Angeles/Hollywood setting. Scene setting is a tremendous strength of Connelly's - he gives his LA the right amount of tattered, grubby glamour alongside of its glittering, moneyed present. Connelly's treatment of LaLa land sits comfortably alongside Raymond Chandler's LA and the 1972 classic film Chinatown, with similar noir elements.
Harry himself is a noir character brought into the present. He is taciturn, troubled and solitary, a man whose eyes have seen too much, but who has never learned the art of not giving a shit. He still cares, and deeply, about the cases that he investigates, operating independently, all too often on the very edge of policy and procedure, to solve the cases that no one else really cares about, including, in this case, the murder of a junkie vet who died in an L.A. tunnel. He is a thorn in the side of an LAPD management that would very much like to be rid of him.
The Black Echo opens with Harry being assigned to the Homicide desk in the Hollywood Division, following an encounter in which Bosch kills a suspect who turns out to have been responsible for the death of nine women. The Dollmaker case is referred to frequently in this book, although the crime and investigation itself are only partially explained. It's clear, though, that this is the case that made Harry Bosch - he is already living in his house in the LA hills, with a view overlooking the city, which he bought after being used as a character in a Paramount picture. That shooting got him busted down from the prestigious Robbery-Homicide Division (RHD) to the Hollywood Division.
In this book, as in many others, Harry is in the middle of an IA investigation, being followed by a pair of untalented investigators named Lewis and Clark. He is partnered with FBI agent Eleanor Wish when his murder appears to be related to a bank heist which involved the thieves tunneling into the vault through the sewer systems. There are conspiracies that extend to the highest levels of law enforcement. The plot is convoluted, but still well-done.
This story was used, in part, in Season 3 of the Amazon series, Bosch. Titus Welliver inhabits the character of Bosch so convincingly that I am unable to not picture him as I read the book. Overall, The Black Echo is an incredibly strong series entry, and the fact that it was Connelly's first book is really sort of amazing.