Bosch Episode One: Mason Cross Review

Harry Bosch has hit the small screen! Mason Cross reviews the first episode of Bosch, Amazon’s latest crime series based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling novels. Contains spoilers.

Friday the 13th represents different things to different people, but for fans of crime fiction in 2015, last Friday meant only one thing: Bosch Day.

It was the day Amazon’s new content production arm unveiled its most high profile series to date, dropping all ten episodes of the new crime drama based on Michael Connelly’s acclaimed series of novels starring LA Homicide cop Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch.

Bosch fans have reason to be optimistic about the series, since the pedigree inspires nothing but confidence. The showrunner is The Wire‘s Eric Overmyer, leading man Titus Welliver has been consistently the best thing about everything else he’s been in, and most importantly, Connelly himself has been deeply involved in the whole production, from casting to co-writing.

Connelly’s contract with Amazon guarantees that the show will be shot in Los Angeles, not Vancouver or Prague or somewhere else standing in for Los Angeles. This pays off immediately in the cold open as Harry chases a suspect by car and on foot through various unmistakeable LA locations. The sequence, taken from early Bosch novel The Concrete Blonde, sets up one of the main subplots: Harry facing a civil suit for fatally shooting said suspect. Readers familiar with the novel will know the answer to whether or not the shooting was justified, but, interestingly, the show is vague on the details of exactly what happened. This gives Bosch’s character a little ambiguity for the episode, which does a great job of establishing his outsider credentials without falling into any of the usual clichés. Okay, showing him smoking right beside a No Smoking sign is a little clichéd, but it’s funny.

The courtroom scenes are also a neat device for providing all the backstory we need to know about Bosch. Under questioning from a hostile attorney, Harry is required to tell us about his military background, how many people he’s killed in the line of duty, and the fact his mother was a murdered prostitute. This leaves the onlookers (and the viewer) mulling over the extent to which these experiences may have influenced Bosch’s actions on the night of the shooting.

 

 

The bulk of the rest of the episode is taken from City of Bones, and Echo Park will be the other source for season one. Going for season-long narrative arcs rather than done-in-one procedurals is a smart choice – cherry-picking elements from several books to focus on for a full season gives the story and the characters room to breathe.

Going on the evidence of episode one, the series doesn’t aim for a slavish adaptation of the books, but it does import plenty of characters, story points and atmosphere from the source, so that the show captures the spirit of the novels. In this, it’s a little reminiscent of Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson’s loose adaptation of James Ellroy’s LA Confidential: breaking down the source material for parts and reassembling it in a new, but equally compelling, configuration.

The series looks great, making use of some well-chosen LA locations (including an actual in-service police squad room), and managing to capture the contemporary/classic noir feel of Connelly’s writing. Welliver is excellent as Bosch, managing the fine balancing act of convincing as a loner without being an asshole to everyone around him. The supporting cast is also strong, with a few familiar faces from shows as diverse as ER, The Wire, and The Walking Dead. Most pleasingly of all for fans of the book, there’s time for a quiet scene with Harry sitting on the deck of his home, drinking beer and listening to jazz, brooding as he gazes out at his city.

A great start, and one of Bosch’s lines was a promising mission statement for the show: ‘In every murder is the tale of a city’.

 

A perfect fit? How well do you think Titus Welliver will fill Harry Bosch’s shoes? Let us know in the Comments section below.

A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Connelly is the author of the Harry Bosch detective series, the most recent of which, The Burning Room, is available now. The three novels upon which series one of Bosch are based – The Concrete Blonde, City of Bones and Echo Park are all published by Orion in paperback and ebook. Visit Michael Connelly’s website for more on Harry Bosch.

 

Mason Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. His short story, ‘A Living’, was shortlisted for the Quick Reads Get Britain Reading Award. The Killing Season is his first novel. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children. To find out more, visit Mason Cross’ website or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.