Desert Star (Renée Ballard #5, Bosch World #36), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Michael Connelly returns with the latest in the Bosch/Ballard series, which has been getting better with each book. Both protagonists know their place and have been able to effectively make their marks on the series, as well as this story in particular. Working different angles in a ragtag group examining cold cases, Bosch and Ballard captivate the reader and keep them guessing until the final truth comes to light. Connelly shows that he has a wonderful direction for this series, with some monumental news in the latter portion of this book. A must-read for series fans (and if you were going to skip it)!

After a scandalous departure from the LAPD, Renée Ballard is back. The Chief of Police offers her a new start, to which she agrees, but leaves her colleagues behind to resurrect the Cold Case squad within the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division. Tasked with a handful of volunteers, Ballard is able to bring Harry Bosch back as an investigator. Bosch has an agenda all his own, as he battles with a case that has nagged him for years, where a psychopath killed an entire family.

The killer appears to be free in the wind, though Bosch is sure it’s only because he did not have the resources to work it when full-time within the LAPD. Now under Ballard’s approval, Bosch does his best to tackle it with fresh eyes, allowing a few others to offer their insights. Ballard is happy to have Bosch there, knowing that she could learn a great deal from him. All the same, Ballard remains leery that this will be a case that could suck the life out of her former mentor.

As Bosch makes some headway, he relies on Ballard to clear the way for him to make his move, in hopes of adding a positive stat to the LAPD column. However, anything can (and does) happen on the rough streets of LA, something both Bosch and Ballard know all too well. It’s the final chapters that impact the story most, sure to pique the interest of Bosch fans. Connelly proves to be a master with this chilling story that accentuates two of his well-developed protagonists.

I remember discovering the Harry Bosch series and not being able to get enough. This passion helped me devour many of the books, as well as the television spin-offs that came from them, keeping me highly entertained over the years. Bosch’s grit and Ballard’s no-nonsense advocacy keep the series strong, particularly while they are still working together. Time will tell what will come of it.

Those who have read novels in the Bosch series will know that Michael Connelly knows how to spin a story. They see it from the outset in a narrative that both sets the scene and carries the reader throughout the journey. This is no exception, as both Bosch and Ballard are at their respective crossroads and need something new. Those who surround themselves with these two enrich the story and offer some light humour to a dark and troubling story. Plot twists in the cold case keep things from getting too mundane and Bosch has a way of turning over many rocks to unleash adventurous moments. I have seen Harry Bosch transform over the years and even Renée Ballard has made some significant changes in her short time in the series. I wonder what’s to come and how these two will keep readers on the edge of their seats, particularly with the cliffhanger Connelly offers.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for another stellar piece. Keep them coming, as I know many who love this series in all its forms.

The Dark Hours (Harry Bosch #23, Renée Ballard #4), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

There’s nothing like a great novel by Michael Connelly to remind me of the power of a stellar police procedural. Transitioning from his stalwart protagonist, Harry Bosch, to a new and gritty detective, Renée Ballard, Connelly shows that police investigations come in all shapes and sizes. LAPD Detective Renée Ballard is working the New Year’s shift, hoping to catch a pair of serial rapists known as the Midnight Men. When a murder pulls her in another direction, Detective Ballard begins her investigation. It would seem some forensics ties the murder to an old case, one investigated by retired Detective Harry Bosch. Ballard and Bosch work together on both cases, peeling back deceptions and truths to find what really happened. Willing to risk it all, Ballard forges ahead to get the cases solved, mentored by Bosch, who still revels in being considered a pariah within the LAPD. Connelly dazzles again and kept me reading late into the night.

LAPD Detective Renée Ballard is used to seeing a great deal on her overnight shift, but nothing prepares her for the intense night that New Year’s Eve brings. While she is counting down the minutes until her shift ends, she’s called to the scene of a street party, where one man has been fatally shot, but no one seems to be talking. What a way to end one year and begin another!

If that were not enough, Ballard has been keeping an eye open for an attack by the Midnight Men, a pair of rapists who have been striking around each holiday. Ballard is not sure what to make of it all, but she’s keen to get some answers, when time permits. It is sure to be an exciting and exhausting beginning to January, but what does Ballard have to lose?

Some early sleuthing and forensics helps Ballard determine that the shooting victim could not have died from an errant bullet that fell from above, but rather a targeted attack that was meant to rile up the community. She traces the bullet back to a gun that was used in another unsolved murder years before. That case, though it remains cold, was investigated by retired Detective Harry Bosch, a friend of Ballard’s but surely not of the LAPD.

Working once again with the gritty and no-nonsense detective, Ballard and Bosch begin their own investigation, pushing the limits in order to put the pieces together. When they seek a little distraction, they discuss and work the Midnight Men case, which has some interesting facts piling up and potential pre-planning. Could the rape victims be anything but random attacks?

Ballard finds herself picking up more than simply investigation tips from Bosch, as she sees her time in the LAPD coming to a close. She has the grit and determination to bring down two sets of criminals, but it may require a slight bending of the rules to do it. Could Ballard be headed down the same path as her mentor? If so, does she really care all that much? Another classic police procedural that will leave readers begging Connelly for more and hoping that this duo is back once again soon.

I have long admired Michael Connelly for his work on this series, which keeps getting better with more twists than a soft pretzel. While Harry Bosch was a sensational protagonist, his stepping side for Renée Ballard has not lessened the impact of the novels, nor does it make me want to read them any less. There is a great connection between Bosch and Ballard, without causing either one of them to force the other to stand in the shadows. The stories are still as gritty as ever and the cases are strong with just enough humour to cut through some of the tension. Connelly had not lost his knack.

Renée Ballard has grown on me over the past few novels, having to fill shoes that are almost impossible to do effectively. She’s got a backstory, though Connelly has left this on the sidelines for the most part. Rather, there is her constant growth and development that comes to pass throughout the novel, as Ballard uses her mentor, Harry Bosch, to hone her skills and become a better cop, if not a more determined person. She has what it takes to make a difference and knows what she needs to do, even if that means crossing the line on occasion as well.

I am never disappointed when it comes to a Michael Connelly novel, as I can be assured of a strong story, great character interactions, and wonderful banter throughout. Connelly has developed these skills over a long period, with a narrative that is both dark and easy to follow, which builds throughout the process and uses twists to keep the reader guessing. The pace allows readers to become ensconced in all that is taking place around them, while finding something intriguing about the characters who set things up effectively for all to see. Plot lines are not always linear, which helps keep the story feeling fresh and some sense of wonder throughout. While I know Bosch was somewhat sidelined a few novels ago, his presence remains strong as Ballard utilises him for some of her own needs and keeps things fresh throughout. There’s something to be said for this duo and I can only hope Connelly has at least a few more novels in him where they can work together, even if that means pushing the LAPD to the side.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for keeping the Bosch spirit alive, while allowing Renée Ballard to rise up and make a name for herself as well.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

The Law of Innocence (Lincoln Lawyer #6, Harry Bosch World #34), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Michael Connelly is back with his favourite lawyer, whose office is a Lincoln that travels around the streets of Los Angeles, helping those in need. Michael ‘Mickey’ Haller has quite the reputation in his profession, though he is sure to have made some enemies. When he’s taken into custody for murder, Haller will have to use all his skills to defend himself, showing that The Law of Innocence is not just a textbook sentiment. Perfect for fans of Connelly’s loosely interconnected series, as well as though who love a great courtroom thriller.

After celebrating another win, defence lawyer Mickey Haller is headed home, only to be stopped by a traffic cop. What begins as a routine missing plate, soon gets out of hand when blood is seen dripping from the bumper. Before long, the body of Sam Scales is found in Haller’s trunk and the hotshot lawyer is dragged off to jail, about to face a murder charge. While Haller professes his innocence, many feel that this could be a form of retribution for a past client’s not listening to his lawyer.

As Haller tries to work all angles and defend himself, he elicits the help of those in his office, as well as former LAPD Detective Harry Bosch to make sense of it all. It’s proven that the body was dumped and killed in Haller’s garage, but there’s much more to the story than meets the eye, including an angle that has the FBI playing coy.

While Haller is not faring well in prison, his sharp mind helps develop a reasonable defence that seems to be winning over the judge. However, the prosecution refuses to let egg settle on its face and pulls a fast one, citing new and damning charges that all but ensure that Haller will spend a long time in prison. This is not how Mickey Haller imagined spending the winter of 2020.

Working with a co-counsel he knows well, Haller must prove his innocence to a panel of jurors who appear eager to hear what the state has to say. It’s sure to be a cutthroat trial where innocence will come second to the ability to spin tales. Haller has everything to lose as he finds himself in the hot seat, somewhere he’s not used to sitting.

I have always enjoyed the work of Michael Connelly, who is able to develop a story that hits the reader in the gut, using many of his great characters to entertain the reader. This piece, which seeks to put savvy defence lawyer Mickey Haller in the shoes of his clients, opens up some new and exciting avenues for the curious reader.

Mickey Haller is a great protagonist in this piece. He shows off his style and pizzazz, but is also relatable as he does what he knows best, defence work. Like his half-brother, Bosch, Haller gets to the root of the issue and uses those around him as inspiration. A father who is trying to ensure his daughter respects him, Haller seeks to show that there are time when the law is not entirely fair, though he never disparages the system in which he earns his living. Forced to use all he knows to save his own skin, Haller will have to show just how conniving he can be when his life’s on the line.

Connelly keeps things interesting with a slew of other characters, some of whom series fans will know well, peppered throughout the narrative. As with many of his novels, Connelly has crafted the perfect mix of good and bad people to push the story along, all connected to the trial in some form. There are some great subplots that emerge in this novel, utilising these supporting characters to offer poignant angles Haller himself could not develop alone. With a cameo appearance by Harry Bosch, fans of that series get a little dose of their favourite retired LAPD detective.

While the ‘Harry Bosch World’ series is long and drawn-out, those that focus on Mickey Haller have been limited. I love Harry Bosch and all he brings to the table, but his half-brother also have some quirks that are worthy of the spotlight. Michael Connelly does well with this novel to develop a strong legal thriller and propels the story forward with a paced narrative that is full of legal jargon. The reader can easily feel as though they are part of the action, with wonderful banter, both in and outside the courtroom. Chapters of various lengths keep the piece from getting too laborious, though there are times when detail takes time to come to fruition, something that Connelly knows well. This is also the first book I have read where the author uses COVID-19 as an interesting ‘window dressing’ to the larger narrative. Well done and placed perfectly so as to involve but not interfere with the overall delivery. I cannot wait to see what else Michael Connelly has for us, as fans await the next season of Bosch on Amazon Prime.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for another winner. I loved the concept and thoroughly enjoyed Bosch’s cameo within the story.

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

Fair Warning (Jack McEvoy #3), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Dusting off one of his older protagonists, Michael Connelly presents a new piece about gritty journalist Jack McEvoy. Now working for a consumer protection news site, Fair Warning, McEvoy is visited by the LAPD about the recent murder of woman he knew in passing. The manner of death, an internal decapitation, piques McEvoy’s interest, but there is also a stalking angle that leads the reporter to think he can tie things to the site. While poking around, McEvoy learns that there have been other cases in which young women have died in a similar manner, leading him to wonder if there is a killer on the loose. Another commonality happens to be that all these women used an inexpensive DNA testing company, one with less than rigorous standards in the field of information sharing. Working alongside a former FBI agent and another investigative reporter, McEvoy begins to see a troubling pattern, as a killer deemed The Shrike is targeting these women for some supposed marker in their DNA. With no clear pattern, McEvoy must be careful, so as not to scare the killer off, but also work with the authorities to ensure his ultimate capture. Connelly develops the essence of a great thriller from the angle of an investigative reporter, a refreshing perspective indeed. Recommended to those who love thrillers in all forms, as well as the reader who is a fan of Michael Connelly’s work.

I recently read a piece of non-fiction penned by the author about his time as an investigative reporter, finding it quite imaginative and full of wonderful cases. I know Michael Connelly has used many of the stories he covered on the crime beat when writing his countless novels, but this is only the third piece in which his protagonist plays the role of journalist. Connelly brings Jack McEvoy back with much to prove, having risen to fame through his past two major cases that spawned blockbuster books. McEvoy has moved to the less exciting work of protecting consumers through his work on Fair Warning, but still takes it quite seriously. He has all the tools to be a stellar journalist and uses his sources effectively, though nothing can prepare him for some of the people that will emerge in this story. Other characters provide wonderful depth to the story, both in the world of investigations and that of DNA technology. Connelly uses them effectively to push the plot along and keep the narrative moving in various directions. The story worked well, honing in on McEvoy’s work as he tries to uncover something while staying in his lane, with some offshoot chapters that provide the reader with needed perspectives to offer a complete story. The plot builds throughout, coming to a head as this killer, The Shrike, is developed and the rationale becomes clear to all. While I do love some of the central Connelly series, this one still has life in it, something that I hope the author does not forget when writing projects cross his desk.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for another winner in your intertwined series. I cannot wait to see what else is coming, as I know some of your other long-forgotten characters are back in print soon!

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

Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

I know that I am one of many who thoroughly enjoys the work of Michael Connelly, with his gritty stories of Harry Bosch and others working on solving (or defending, sometimes even reporting) crimes that occur throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Some may know that Connelly began his career as a crime beat reporter, amassing much of the story ideas he would later make popular through the cases on which he reported. This book is a collection of reports, both backgrounds and follow-ups, that Connelly penned during his reporting career. With an introduction that gives the reader the insight into how Connelly witnessed his first criminal at the age of sixteen and the subsequent investigation made him want to report on crimes, the author paints a picture of how this type of writing soon got into his blood and helped him to craft the descriptions that pull readers into the stories. With the collection divided into three parts, the reader can see reports that feature the police, the criminals, and the unknown victims. Seeing the cases develop and those who worked hard to catch the perpetrators, Connelly shines a light on those with the badges and guns, though he does not only present the positive side of those in blue. The reader can see Connelly’s depiction of the criminals as well, with backstories on their lives and what might have led them to the life of crime before they were caught, or eluded capture and disappeared. The final section seeks to focus the attention the victim who was left without a clear identity, be it because they fell through the cracks of the system or the brutality they faced left them unrecognisable at the time of initial reporting. With some wonderful tie-ins to cases that Harry Bosch would eventually face (note, the book came long before anyone ever heard of Renee Ballard), Connelly shows his tireless fans that fact and fiction do something intertwine and make for entertaining reading. Recommended to those who love true crime seen through the eyes of the roving reporter, as well as the reader who has come to love the writing of Michael Connelly over the years.

While I am not an avid reader of true crime novels, I like to see where authors get their ideas. Many pull on experiences from their past (or current) professions and blur the lines effectively to keep things working well for their reading public while offering a degree of anonymity and keeping lawsuits at bay. While I have been a longtime fan of Connelly’s work (all series), it is interesting to see where some of the ideas emerged. I have watched a few seasons of the Amazon Prime show, Bosch, which pulls its ideas from the books, but this was even more interesting, as I could see from where the initial germination of writing ideas eventually blossomed. The cases are all over the place, from robberies to murder, kidnapping to assaults. All included both sides of the law, as well as a victim, pulling the reader into the middle, much like Connelly must have been as he used his access to case files and the like. The curious reader will see just how detailed things can get when a reporter has earned the trust of the police, though also kept his independence and is able to point out foibles in the system. Connelly writes in such a way that the reader cannot help but want to know more, seeking to eke out as many details as possible. While some attentive readers will see the parallels between the cases and the eventual books, anyone can enjoy this, with Connelly’s easy to digest prose and attention to detail. Well worth my time as I await another Michael Connelly publication, which just so happens to have a reporter as the protagonist!

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for all your hard work on the beat, which you have been able to turn into a stellar collection of novels that have stood the test of time.

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

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:

Dark Sacred Night (Bosch # 21, Renée Ballard #2), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Always finding ways to be unique with his writing, Michael Connelly offers up something different for his fans in this latest novel, which mixes two of his most talked-about protagonists. Two detectives from two jurisdictions, sharing their life stories and bound together by a single cold case that has them fully committed. While working the ‘late show’, LAPD Detective Renée Ballard comes across former LAPD legend Harry Bosch flipping through old files. Ballard soon learns that Bosch is working a cold case while things are slow down at San Fernando PD. After some digging of her own, Ballard approaches Bosch to see if he needs any help, particularly obtaining information within the LAPD. Thus begins a loose partnership between the two as they look into the murder of a teenage prostitute from almost a decade before. Bosch is doing this as a favour to someone he knows, but remains somewhat circumspect on why he’s being so nice. While Bosch and Ballard work their respective cases on different shifts, the Daisy Clayton investigation continues to heat up. With information tying her abduction and eventual murder to a non-descript van, Bosch and Ballard try to narrow down the list of suspects, while staying on top of the drama that shapes their own lives. The more they work together, the better they get to know one another, so different and yet so in sync. Could this be the ultimate pairing that no one saw coming? And does the murderer, hiding in the shadows, stand a chance with these two detectives on their heels? Connelly mixes some strong Bosch work with the still evolving Detective Ballard to create a great story that allows fans to get their fill of both characters. Recommended to fans of both series who always wondered, ‘what if…?’

I quite enjoy Michael Connelly’s work, spanning an interesting career. I am also a fan of authors who blend their series protagonists together, just to see how the chemistry will play out. Connelly has done it before, but this new connection could be an even more interesting fit, given the newness of Renée Ballard on the scene. Those who enjoyed Ballard’s introduction as a protagonist are able to extract a little more about the woman and her policing style, as well as the grit that emerges when she works alongside LAPD legend, Harry Bosch. As with his involvement in the series that bears his name, Bosch has grown and changed, but always seems to have new and exciting angles yet to be revealed. His backstory and development seem set in neutral, but there are always crumbs on which the series fan can feast, even as Bosch teeters on the brink of giving it all up. However, many would ask what happens to Bosch when he can no longer shape policing and help those in need. Connelly pokes at this bear in this piece, leaving the reader to wonder if Bosch’s days are finally numbered. The story was a brilliant mix of a handful of cases, seen through the eyes of both protagonists. Mixing the narrative angles, the reader is able to see both Bosch and Ballard working through things from their perspectives, as well as a joint effort to find this killer who has slipped through the cracks for nine years. The story moves along at a wonderful pace, offering struggles for both detectives while also seeing them grow closer together. This connection is one that cannot be ignored and should not be shunned, as there is much to be seen when it comes to it. A mentor-mentee situation could be budding and who better than Harry Bosch to have as a guide?

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for a wonderful series that seems only to get better. Bring on more, when time permits. Your fan base grows with each new publication!

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

Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #22), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Michael Connelly has been hard at work to bring readers another instalment in the Harry Bosch series. With Bosch having such a long existence in the crime thriller world, some permutations had to be expected with the 22nd novel. Three years away from the LAPD, Bosch has been contentedly working for the San Fernando PD as a detective. His current focus is the piles of cold cases that haunt the region. When Bosch is visited by a former partner and two other officials, he learns that a man sitting on death row that he put away for murder three decades ago has been given another chance by the LAPD Convictions Integrity Unit (CIU). After opening an investigation when another man confessed to the crime, DNA not previously processed was found on the victim’s clothing. Additionally, there is an attempt to sandbag Bosch, citing that he went rogue and planted evidence. As Bosch tries to process this, he is called out on a fresh case, where two pharmacists have been killed at work. With the CIU investigation pushed to the back of his mind, Bosch begins exploring the dark world of drug-dealing by scrip, where plants are sent into pharmacies (sometimes willing) and having hundreds of prescriptions filled for oxy pills, only to have them released on the streets. The deeper he digs, the more complex the web Bosch discovers. While he may be a few years away from dealing with warm victims, Bosch will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of this case. Meanwhile, turning to his half-brother, Bosch engages the services of Mickey Haller to help him through the mess that is CIU and the upcoming hearing to clear the name of a death row inmate. Does Bosch have enough recollection to keep his name clear from the mud? Can Haller pull a proverbial rabbit out of a hat? How can they dismiss the video of a sealed evidence container holding clothing that was stained with DNA that did not belong to the killer? Readers are treated to a wonderful story that does not let go until the bitter end. Perfect for series fans who enjoy a little Bosch with their mystery.

I have long been a Michael Connelly fan and this novel helps support that claim. It is a successful author who can juggle a series for as long as Connelly has kept Bosch going without allowing things to go stale. Connelly finds new angles and approaches for his protagonist to ensure that the grit for which Bosch is so well known does not dull. Pulling on a few threads from Bosch’s background or personal life, Connelly pulls the reader into the middle of the man’s life, as well as his acclamation to a smaller and less vigorous life as a cold-case detective. Bosch is surrounded by many secondary characters, some new and some long-established, all of whom complement (never compliment) Bosch on his journey through the narrative. The story is clean and the premise poignant, as oxy drugs supersaturate the market now. Connelly shows his research is strong and all-encompassing to present such a wonderful story, pulling on various parts of the underworld. I can see Bosch continuing his strong reign within the crime thriller genre, helped by the superior writing of Michael Connelly. Surely Haller fans with also enjoy what the author has done in this meshing story.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for this wonderful piece. Some have commented that things are going off the rails, though I cannot see it myself. I wonder if you have ideas about meshing all your L.A. characters in a coming novel.

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

The Late Show (Renée Ballard #1), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

As if he did not have enough on his plate, Michael Connelly has decided to launch a new series (or at least a standalone) that takes a new approach to policing, still in the busy city of Los Angeles. Renée Ballard is a well-established detective with the LAPD, working the ‘late show’, police talk for the 11pm-7am shift. It’s mostly picking up the scraps of the nightlife and directing cases to daytime divisions, but police work all the same. Called out whenever the need arises, Ballard is left without closure or any sense of propriety on the cases she catches. Working alongside a jaded partner, Ballard is forced to contain her excitement for the cases that come her way. During a single shift, two monumental cases land in her lap: the assault of a transgender prostitute, left for dead in a parking lot, and a shooting at a nightclub with three victims left to die in their own blood. Ballard chases up leads as best she can, in hopes of being able to see something through and bring some closure for herself. While chasing down some evidence on the assault, Ballard learns that the victim has odd marking on his body, as if there might be words embedded in the flesh. Could this be the work of someone using a less than typical weapon? Meanwhile, at the club, the shooting appears to be a form of ‘house cleaning’ with the suspected shooter likely known to the three victims. Just as Ballard is trying to liaise with the day shift and move on from the shooting, some evidence pointing to a fellow cop emerges. Worse, it could be her former partner, who hung her out to dry. While trying to confront him, Ballard discovers that he has been shot. Could this be yet another act of senseless violence in a city where gunfire competes with cricket chirps? While wrestling with her own personal demons, Ballard is taken captive for poking her nose around on these cases, but no one knows she’s gone missing. Will the lights go out for Ballard on the late show once and for all? Perfect for those who have come to love the Bosch series, Connelly flavours this book with just as much energy, though differentiates it in numerous regards.

When I heard that Connelly intended on beginning a new series, I was not sure how well it would go, as he was so very busy. My worry intensified (I know, I worry about things I cannot control) when I discovered it would be another cop series, thinking that it might be a female Bosch or, worse yet, one in which the main character stayed on the narrow path. However, Connelly has been able to craft the Renée Ballard character to reflect the same grit of the LAPD, but with strong differentiations from the(in)famous detective. Ballard offers readers an interesting perspective, not only as a woman, but one who is single and not tied down to anyone else, save her dog. Having met her fair share of issues on the job, Ballard has had to make a name for herself and, at times, reinvent the person she wants to be on a force that still seeks to shuffle her to the side. Working that night shift makes her seem like a paper pusher and set-up for the glorious day shifts, who are able to score all the points and win glory at every turn. However, Connelly offers enough in this character that the reader can, at times, forget that and focus on wonderful police work. The story is strong and keeps the reader hooked, juggling a few cases simultaneously. While it is impossible to dream up new and exciting new angles to the crimes of the L.A. streets, Connelly chooses cases that can expand as the narrative explores the darker sides to the underworld. Keeping things realistic and succinct, Connelly is able to tell his story and utilize his characters effectively, while not getting too far-fetched. With almost two dozen Bosch novels to his name and a genre that is saturated with crimes in the big city, Connelly has been forced to show how Renée Ballard is not only unique, but also deserves a spot on the scene. I am eager to see when and where she will make her next appearance, as Connelly has a sure winner here.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly for a wonderful teaser novel to get the reader curious. Admittedly, I cannot remember reading about Ballard before in your writing, but I wonder if you have any hopes of bringing Haller or Bosch in to liaise at some point, should this book take off and lead to a larger series.