Even if I hadn't read the Q&A with Michael Connelly on his own site about The Overlook, his latest harry Bosch novel, before reading it, I like to think I might have guessed that the novel started as a serialisation (in the New York Times magazine).
And I am sorry I didn't read the book when it was serialised, which is a sadly under-utilised media these days. (I remember with great fondness running out every couple of weeks to a bookstore to see if the next instalment of The Green Mile serial written by Stephen King in 1996).
The Overlook has the "next instalment" feel about it with small dramas and cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. It has a terrific story concept for it as well, with all the drama taking place within a few short hours against the pressure of a ticking time bomb.
It is a well-conceived story, ripe for this paranoid, war-on-terrorism age. A doctor with access to radioactive medical supplies is found murdered on the famous Mulholland viewing point that overlooks Los Angeles. Very quickly it is discovered that prior to his death he had taken a large enough quantity of Cesium to make a dirty bomb with the potential to cripple the city.
Bosch, thrown together with former lover Rachel Walling and her colleagues in the FBI, have to hunt down the Cesium before the terrorists thought to have stolen it can deploy it.
Those who have read a lot of Bosch could probably predict elements of the story from here: Harry falls into immediate conflict with the Feds and pursues a parallel investigation while colleagues and others try and pull him back from the edge.
Bosch's propensity to go solo and against the grain in investigations is at the heart of the appeal and success of these novels, but in this instance it simply doesn't ring true as the relatively short and succinct nature of the serialisation (Connelly wrote 16 3,000 words chapters for the NYT) never really allows him to develop the train of thought well enough, and it just appears that he is behaving like a stubborn asshole.
This was almost enough to derail the entire book for me, but I persisted and I was glad I did. There's a very well developed twist at the end, and the canon of Bosch benefits from this book - not least through the introduction of his latest partner, Iggy.
But I have pretty serious misgivings about it. First off, I'm pleased I didn't have to buy it. Orion, which publishes The Overlook in the UK in June has priced the hardback at £17.99. But as The Overlook is less than 300 pages, the lines are well space and the type large, this is a long way from being good value. Amazon's £11.87 is nearer the mark.
I think the book also betrays a certain tiredness about the character of Bosch, which I highlighted in my review of Echo Park last year. The story-telling, however, remains strong and the legion of followers who joined Connelly following the Lincoln Lawyer will probably enjoy it more than Bosch devotees.