Anyone who has watched the series on Amazon Prime knows Titus Welliver IS Harry Bosch, so it was a no brainer to get the actor to narrate the audiobook versions of Michael Connelly’s hugely popular novels. After all, the man could recite the ingredients panel from a packet of cereal and make it sound interesting.
Along comes an audiobook newbie – me – overwhelmed by the choice on offer and uncertain where to begin my auditory journey. Then, inspiration! Why not begin with a book I know well, one which is right at the beginning of the Bosch legend? It is the book that introduced the detective to the crime fiction audience and immediately drew them in, and here it has the aforementioned Mr Welliver in the driving seat. So, The Black Echo it is then.
Anyone who enjoys audiobooks knows that its best to give them your full attention, so Mr Welliver and I became walking companions – and an entertaining one he proved to be! For those new to The Black Echo, it opens as Harry is covering a Sunday shift at Hollywood Division. He’s been demoted from Robbery-Homicide after an investigation into a recent case, and he’s working alone because partner Jerry Edgar is off selling houses in his side-job as an estate agent. So a call to a dead body in a drainage pipe off Mulholland Drive looks like routine.
The man was obviously an addict and had OD’d. But Harry recognises him as Billy Meadows. The pair served together as tunnel rats in Vietnam, and the detective spots something that tells him the man was murdered. It’s the cue for a case that will take Harry back into his past, put him in danger, and have him teamed up with Eleanor Wish of the FBI. Connelly is laying the foundations for plenty of drama between them in future books – and we also have the introduction of Irvin Irving, currently Deputy Chief in charge of Internal Affairs but destined for greater things, as any fan of the TV series will know.
Titus Welliver’s narration gives a cinematic quality to this book, and his skill at creating the ‘voice’ of each character is exceptional. The performances are nuanced on occasion – Eleanor Wish is a fine example of this, while wittily veering to the outer edges of caricature at other times (anyone who has seen Lance Reddick play Irving in the Prime series can’t hesitate to recognise his tones in Welliver’s depiction). But it is Connelly’s prose that shines through and it is no surprise that this debut work won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel back in 1992.
I’ve come to the conclusion that audiobooks are the way forward as we impatiently await the new Bosch series on IMDb TV. It’s a way of getting a fix of that gravelly Welliver voice, and brushing up on the character’s back story in the process. As a work of crime fiction, The Black Echo is entertaining and cleverly wrought; here, the narration adds a clarity that gets the imaginative juices flowing nicely. Welliver has narrated several other Bosch books and short stories and also the Renée Ballard novels.
It may be almost 30 years since we first met Harry Bosch, but the acclaimed Prime series and audiobooks like this one keep his story fresh and full of life. The special edition I listened to on Audible also had a bonus interview with Connelly and Welliver chewing the fat about Bosch, which will certainly appeal to lovers of the series in print or on the screen.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars