- - Thursday, November 15, 2018


By Michael Connelly

Little, Brown and Company, $29, 448 pages

In Michael Connelly’s crime thriller “The Late Show,” he introduced us to a new character, Renee Ballard, an attractive, 30-ish dedicated and smart Los Angeles detective who was working the night shift.

Renee Ballad was transferred to the night shift from the more prestigious Robbery-Homicide Division after she filed a complaint against her lieutenant for making a crude, physical pass at her. The complaint went nowhere, as her partner did not back her up, so she was sent to the night shift, an undesirable job called the “late show” by the cops.

In my review of “The Late Show” here, I noted that although I found Renee Ballard to be engaging and interesting, I missed his other, better known character, Harry Bosch.

So I was pleased that in his following crime novel, “Two Kinds of Truth,” Harry Bosch was once again front and center. Now, in Mr. Connelly’s current and 32nd crime novel, “Dark Sacred Night,” we see Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard team up.

Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is a troubled character. Raised in an orphanage after his prostitute mother was murdered, he experienced a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam as a “tunnel rat,” one of those soldiers who crawl through small Viet Cong-built tunnels in pursuit of the wily and deadly Communist guerrillas.

Thankfully, he later found a home and life mission with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he excelled as a detective, but ruffled the police brass and politicians with his stubborn independence and dogged pursuit of justice for all. His personal credo is, “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”

The books are written in actual time, so Harry Bosch has retired from the LAPD and in “Dark Sacred Night” he volunteers as a reserve officer for the San Fernando Police Department, tackling cold cases.

One 9-year-old cold case is personal, as he helped Elizabeth Clayton recover from drug addiction while pursuing the case of her 15-year-old runaway daughter who was brutally murdered and tossed in a dumpster. When he seeks information at his old LAPD station, he runs into Detective Ballard, who becomes interested in the case as well. She considers the murder a “hobby case,” something she can pursue when things are quiet on the late show.

As Detectives Ballard and Bosch look through files from the time of the girl’s murder, they discover the possibility of other murders. Many of the murdered girls were runaways and/or prostitutes. Was there, is there, a serial killer?

Harry Bosch is also working on the cold case of a murdered gang leader in San Fernando. The victim, a Latino San Fers gang leader, was shot while walking his dog. Although not as well known as MS-13, the San Fers are one of San Fernando’s oldest and most violent street gangs. Harry Bosch’s investigation leads to a clash with the gangbangers.

While Renee Ballard is working with Harry Bosch, she is also handling a variety of other cases on her late show, from a burglary to a case of “he said/she said” sexual assault that involves a Hollywood celebrity.

As the cases wrap up, Renee Ballard says to Harry Bosch, “You know what I was thinking about, Harry? I was thinking about all the cases that would never get solved if you were gone. You still have work to do.”

“I guess. Maybe,” he replies. As the San Fers gang case signals an end to Harry Bosch’s connection to the San Fernando Police Department, he suggests that they work together in the future — she on the inside of LAPD, and he on the outside. She agrees to the unofficial partnership.

“Dark Sacred Night” is an entertaining and insightful crime thriller that is well-written and fast-paced. This novel, like his previous crime novels, is mostly fact-based, as Mr. Connelly gets many of his ideas and stories from active and retired detectives.

Mr. Connelly has said that Renee Ballard was based partly on a real LAPD detective, Mitzi Roberts. Detective Roberts has been a friend of Mr. Connelly for many years and she is a technical consultant to Mr. Connelly’s “Bosch” TV show on Amazon.

Like his previous crime novels, Mr. Connelly offers a great thriller as well as touches on some very real issues that we face in Los Angeles and across the country; such as drug addiction, homelessness and violent street gangs.

I interviewed Mr. Connelly for my online Crime Beat column a while back and he told me that fiction goes down its own path from reality.

“My job here is to write a thriller — to be entertaining and keep the pages turning — but you always have an opportunity to say something or open up a window on something happening in the world,” Mr. Connelly said.

• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

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