The Night Fire (Renée Ballard #3, Harry Bosch #22), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Michael Connelly returns to continue the torch passing between two of his key police detectives, doing so in brilliant ways that will keep the reader talking for the foreseeable future. Harry Bosch is privy to an unexpected gift when attending the post-funeral party of his first partner at the LAPD. A murder book from a case back in 1990 holds much, though it would appear nothing has been done in almost three decades. He brings this nugget to Renée Ballard, his quasi-partner, who continues to light it up within the LAPD on her night shift. Working off the books together, they pry into the past and seek to determine who might have shot John Hilton, a homeless drug addict. While not an heir to the hotel fortune, Bosch and Ballard work the case as they would any other, looking into gang ties and other clues that drop at their feet. In a case from so long ago, it is hard to find those who might remember, or choose to share. While juggling the case, both find themselves caught up in some other work. Bosch is brought in by flashy defence attorney—and his half-brother—Mickey Haller, to find the killer of a judge. Haller is sure his client is being used as a scapegoat, though the evidence is strong. Ballard finds herself looking into many cases on the ‘late show’, including a fire that killed a homeless man in his make-shift tent home. While the Hilton case gains a little steam, Bosch and Ballard will have to do whatever they can, as gangs are lifelong and bringing up old skirmishes have a way of angering people anew. A wonderful addition to the series that sees Ballard stealing more of the limelight in what could be a significant change for series fans. Recommended to those who love a gritty police procedural, as well as the reader who has long enjoyed Bosch in all his permutations.

I can usually count on Michael Connelly to come up with a strong story when Harry Bosch is involved. I can now say that Renée Ballard fits that statement as well, as she seems to be a ‘Bosch-lite’, but still just as determined. This new partnership is working well and keeps the story moving at a fast pace. Ballard continues to be a star on the night shift, pushing through cases and working as hard as can be, but also finding time to dig through old cases with her quasi-partner/mentor Bosch. Her backstory remains unchanged, but she seems to be creating more of a name for herself, which is helpful as the series looks to be moving towards her as the sole protagonist. Connelly lobs a bomb of sorts for the attentive reader, as they learn more about Bosch and what awaits him. Could this be a way of moving away from the star detective and making room for Ballard to have a solo career? Only time will tell. With a brief appearance by Mickey Haller, some readers—myself included—may pine for more Haller-centred novels, which could surely keep Bosch working. That being said, I love these crime thrillers, no matter which angle—police or lawyer—takes centre stage. The story was strong and kept me curious throughout. The banter between the two protagonists is further enshrined as Connelly uses first-person narratives for each of them, providing insight and first-hand knowledge as the plot thickens. A mix of chapter lengths keeps the reader guessing which twist awaits, though there is surely no limit to the action and intensity. I have come to enjoy Ballard as she seems to take over the storyline, though have come to see that Bosch’s 22nd novel sees him as gritty as ever, which I hopes does not end too soon.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for another wonderful piece. You bring your stories and characters to life in these novels and I hope you have many more ideas in the near future.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: