Review: The Overlook by Michael Connelly

I plucked this one from my TBR shelves as part of my Good Reads group’s summer reading challenge. Connelly’s name was one of only five names that popped up when I typed new author Elly Griffiths into the Literature Map. Other than a character called Harry I have no clue what characteristics the website’s database thinks the two authors share.

Detective Harry Bosch is waiting for the first callout to a job with the LAPD’s Homicide Special squad which he has recently moved to from his previous placement. When the call comes after midnight one night it’s to a case unlike those Harry normally deals with. A man has been killed in what seems to be an execution and the authorities are worried. The dead man was a doctor who dealt with radioactive substances routinely used for cancer treatments but which could, in the wrong hands, be used for terrorism. Soon the FBI and a half-dozen other alphabet agencies are involved in back-tracking the man’s movements and when his wife is found bound and frightened in their home the race is on. Harry and his new partner Iggy Ferras struggle to retain any control or even involvement in the case as the various Federal Government agencies take over the witnesses and evidence.

I learned via the author interview at the end of this book that it was originally published as a serialised story in an American magazine which probably explains the length (it’s short by modern standards at 260 pages with lots of white space) and the fact that there is really only one central storyline, no detours, no sidetracks. I wouldn’t want all my books to be so straightforward but I have to admit in my current holiday mood when the other book I was reading was boring me senseless this one hit the spot. It’s a really fast read with a good, logical plot and if the twist at the end is was fairly predictable I was definitely engaged enough to see exactly how the author would resolve it. Connelly writes clearly and without pretension

I see from reviews that some existing fans of Harry Bosch didn’t like this installment of the series and I can see why that might be as there isn’t much character development in it. However for someone like me who is new to the series it was a good introduction because, presumably due to the serialisation, it provided more information about the main character’s back story than you’d normally expect to find in a book so late in a series. At this point I’m not sure I like Harry overly much, my take is that he’s an arrogant know-it-all, but I did see enough that I am interested in reading more about him. I liked the way Connelly explored Harry’s frustration with the way governments and their agents are so ready to exploit fears of terrorism these days, often to the detriment of sense and practicality. I see parallels to this in my own day job, where things like predictions of disease pandemics get blown out of all proportion, and this aspect of The Overlook had an extra ring of truth for me.

Ultimately I think I’d like something that combines the character development of The Lincoln Lawyer with the pace of this novel and I’m keen to read more Connelly to see if such a thing exists. I can certainly recommend this book to people like me who are interested in trying the Harry Bosch series but don’t have the energy to go back to the beginning. Regardless of any format constraints Connelly writes cleanly and crisply and this novel was a fast-paced treat.

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The Overlook has been reviewed at Mysteries in Paradise and Petrona

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My rating 3.5/5
Publisher Allen & Unwin [2007]
ISBN 9781741752557
Length 260 pages
Format trade paperback
Source I mooched it

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Overlook by Michael Connelly

  1. I have not read a lot of the Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly. This was not one of the best that I have read, and I figured out what happened very early on. However, there are many books in this series that are much better, i.e., “The Closer,” which a friend recommended. I had read only “The Lincoln Lawyer,” by Connelly, which was superb, when I read “The Closer.”
    His newest book, “The Reversal,” combines the Mickey Haller, defense-attorney-turned-temporary prosecutor with Harry Bosch, the police investigator. It alternates between he two of them. It has character development, legal strategy, and a fast-paced investigation, as well as twists and turns. It’s good.
    I am going to read more in the Harry Bosch series. It’s one of the best series around.

  2. Bernadette – I’m glad you like Connelly’s style. Of course, I’m biased; I like his work very, very much. And I’ve gotten to be a fan of Harry Bosch’s, too. The Overlook doesn’t have his finest character development, I’ll admit, but as you say, even so it’s a good story. I really do hope you go back and read some others in the series. But again, I love this series, so I am biased…

  3. Harry Bosch is not a likeable person , you are right there. He is arrogant, pig-headed and thinks he knows best – as he is a man with a self-driven mission (to stand up for the dead, victims, etc).
    The Overlook is slighter than most Michael Connelly books, and if memory serves it was one of two novels he published that year. I think that if you are interested in continuing with the series, you could carry on forward from this point without losing too much – the early Bosch books are much more in the vein of classic US detective fiction, and themes include Harry’s time as a tunnel rat in Vietnam, his relationships with both his parents (childhood mysteries solved as an adult), etc. The later novels, including The Lincoln Lawyer as mentioned above, are more about the different institutions (police, law, journalism, FBI) and how they intersect in solving a crime. As you mention, the author has been right in there from day 1 in criticising the removal of personal freedoms stimulated by 9/11 and several of his books at the time of The Overlook and previously focused on this question before other US authors dared to.

    I think the main thing you will miss by not going back to the start is Harry;s romantic back story (a mess, basically) so for example Nine Dragons may seem less interesting as you won’t know the story of Harry’s pervious relationship with the woman in that novel. But i don’t think that matters. I hope you will continue, this series is definitely readable and I find them all quite compelling, not least in Harry;s relationship with Los Angeles and his “mission”.

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