Quick Review: THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly (Orion/Little, Brown)

ConnellyM-HB13-OverlookUKTerrorism, the FBI and Harry Bosch…

An execution on the overlook above the Mulholland Dam entangles Bosch with FBI Agent Rachel Walling and Homeland Security.

When a physicist is murdered in LA, it seems the killer has no fear of publicity, leaving the body on the Mulholland overlook, a site with a stunning view over the city. And when it’s discovered that the victim turned over a quantity of a lethal chemical to his killer before he died, Harry knows he has more than just a single death to worry about.

Alongside the forces of Homeland Security, Harry realises he must solve the murder or face unimaginable consequences.

In this, the thirteenth Harry Bosch novel, the LAPD detective comes face-to-face with a potential terrorist threat in Los Angeles. I’ve been working my way through all of Connelly’s novels this year (14 and counting at the time of writing),* and while I’m not going to write a review of each other them, I wanted to just flag The Overlook as one of the ones that has stuck with me. We see Bosch navigating the inevitable response to a terrorism threat, while also getting to know his new partner. A gripping, fast-moving crime story.

Due to events that took place in previous novels in the series, Bosch’s relationship with Rachel Walling is rather strained for most of this novel. Their personal issues bleed into their professional relationship, as Walling acts far more like the overbearing Fed than she has in previous novels. It makes sense, though: everyone is still running pretty hot in the government’s anti-terrorism ranks, which means that their encroachment on the jurisdiction(s) of local law enforcement causes extra strain. In The Overlook, it also leads to a fatal overreaction by someone who can charitably be described as utterly unsuited to any position of leadership in the LAPD, let alone an anti-terrorism squad. (Just read the novel, you’ll know immediately who I mean. Damned wannabe cowboy.)

ConnellyM-HB13-OverlookUSFor me, the most interesting facet of the novel was Bosch’s (and, perhaps, the author’s) clear frustration and dismay with the changing nature of the FBI and law enforcement in general when it comes to the threat of terrorism. Considering this novel came out in 2007, certain scenes perfectly encapsulate the problems inherent in the militarization of police forces. There’s a lot more I want to say about both of these issues — anti-terrorism responses and militarized police — but to tie them in with the novel will throw out a lot of spoilers. In short, though, Connelly does an excellent job of showing us how these two developments pose threats to society and a city’s population, but also how they can be manipulated and misused by those in power. (Don Hadley is a particularly infuriating character.)

The way Connelly discusses terrorism and the militarization of the police makes the novel another example of a crime/thriller author highlighting deep issues within and threats to society that many others have been slow to grasp. Another would be the threat of white supremacy in the USA, which Connelly has touched upon in other novels (and something David Baldacci has written about frequently in his). Each of these issues has come to take up ever-more space in the news and America’s (and the West’s) collective consciousness, and sadly has only become more urgent and important in recent years.

Of course, as with many Connelly novels: the novel ends up not really being about what it purports to be about. I won’t say anything else on that front, but it’s a satisfying conclusion, and very Connelly.

One of Connelly’s shorter novels, The Overlook is another excellent, gripping novel. Quickly paced without being rushed, some nice twists, and great characters. I really enjoyed this one, and it’s a stand-out in a series that has been superb with each new instalment.

*

Michael Connelly’s The Overlook is out now, published by Orion Books in the UK and Little, Brown in North America.

* At the time of writing, I’m about a third into The Drop, the 17th novel in the Bosch series: it’s shaping up to be another investigative mystery. (I’ve also read the Mickey Haller novels, which I would also highly recommend.)

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