Sunday, June 10, 2007

Connelly's The Overlook disappointing

Books now read in ’07: 52
Title: The Overlook
Author: Michael Connelly
Genre: Mystery
Date Completed: 6-7
Pages: 225

On the penultimate page of Michael Connelly’s new novel, The Overlook, detective Harry Bosch exults that, from beginning to end, he had solved his new case “in little more than twelve hours.”

Such a prompt clearance rate is good for Harry, but not Connelly’s readers. This novel is a mere 225 pages. As it applies to the book’s title overlook means a place from which one may look down on a scene below. But there’s a second meaning. Used as a verb overlook means to look past, miss or ignore; which is what Connelly seems to have done. It’s as if he has written half a book.

The investigation into the murder of a L.A. doctor proceeds much as we expect it would. The murder appears to have been an execution and terrorists seem to be involved – especially when it is learned that a quantity of cesium is missing. The missing cesium brings the FBI into the case. They’re focused on finding the cesium. Harry wants to solve the murder.

What’s missing – and we should note that Connelly’s three previous books weighed in at slightly more than 400 pages – is the personal touch; the relationships, good and bad and uncertain, that have defined Harry Bosch as one of the more intriguing modern fictional detectives.

Harry’s love interest, FBI agent Rachel Walling, is on the case and Harry has a new partner, Ignacio, who repeatedly insists that Harry call him “Iggy.” Connelly doesn’t do much with either relationship. Fans of the series will recall the bitter break up between Walling and Bosch at the conclusion of Echo Park last year. They’re getting cozy again in this novel, but the leap from acrimony in the early pages to “gee, I never deleted your number from my cell phone either” is hurried, incomplete and altogether unsatisfactory. Harry’s new partner puts in a cameo appearance at best.

Curiously, a twenty-third chapter to the book can be downloaded from Connelly’s website. The extra chapter does clear up a few loose ends – yes, Rachel has stiches; no, Harry doesn’t have radiation poisoning; and maybe Iggy, who is shot, is going to be OK – but, all in all, it doesn’t contribute much.

One wonders what dictated this abbreviated effort by Connelly. It doesn’t seem to be a case of the Crichton treatment – producing a novel and screenplay all in one. Perhaps his publishers pressured Connelly to complete the book or perhaps he’s growing weary of detective Bosch – the series is 15 years old.

Whatever the explanation, The Overlook is disappointing to those of us who are just wild about Harry.

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