With The Late Show Connelly introduces a new character, detective Renee Ballard. Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch has been in and out of retirement in the last few books and his fans had to know that the end was coming. We can all hope that Late Show is the beginning of many featuring Renee, who unlike Harry Bosch is sexy.
Connelly is sixty years old but continues to write his own stuff, unlike many famous thriller writers who now ghost out their names. As always, his writing is concise, to the point, with direct, clear sentences, a contrast from L.S. Hilton whom I reviewed last month. Until you get toward the denouement, you can read Connelly while peeking at the television or listen while driving. Don’t tell him I said that.
Renee has been demoted to the night shift, jokingly called “the late show” by cops, at the Hollywood station after complaining that her lieutenant at headquarters downtown had made unwanted passes at her, like trying to lick her tonsils. Unfortunately, her five-year partner, detective Chastain, who witnessed the clumsy advances did not back her up and her complaint to the review board was dismissed. Immediately she’s kicked over to a substation with the worst shift for a detective. Apparently, the brass hopes she’ll just quit.
One night she and her new partner get a call about a stolen wallet and use of an elderly lady’s credit card. The event hardly seems worthy of a Michael Connelly thriller, and if any criticism can be leveled at the master, The Late Show does start a little slow. One famous British crime novelist once said, “Every mystery should begin with ‘A shot was heard.” This one doesn’t, but Connelly is cerebral, making the reader wonder where he’s going, and that’s good, too.
Later that night Renee and her not-very-ambitious-close- to-retirement partner are called to the hospital where a prostitute has been taken after what a vicious beating. When the nurses cut away her clothing they discover the woman is a he. Despite her partner’s disgust at the man-girl and his occupation Renee is determined to find the bastard who beat him to near death. We see Renee’s spirit when she dresses-down the indifferent beat cops for not sealing off the crime scene.
As their shift is ending a mass shooting occurs at a night club. The overwhelmed guys assigned to the killings need a detective to accompany one of the wounded to the hospital in case she is revived and can talk. Renee accompanies the waitress who apparently was an unfortunate bystander to the hospital but is unable to get a statement before she codes and dies. When Renee returns to the scene of the shooting she is told in no uncertain terms by her former lieutenant that she is not in the least welcome on the scene or as part of the investigation.
For many pages, the reader will wonder how this can all be tied together. But Connelly is the master of connecting loose dots and does so brilliantly in The Late Show. As always, Connelly adds fascinating details about a big city police operation and the politics involved. Like Bosch, Renee is on the outs with the brass and teetering on the edge of dismissal. And who but Connelly would create a cop character who is essentially homeless, sleeping on the beach after working nights and then surfing in the morning?
When her former partner, Chastain, who is leading the investigation into the mass shooting is himself assassinated, the book roars along at a fast pace leading to Renee getting into more danger than I ever recall Bosch facing. She realizes her dead former partner has left her and only her a clue to the night club shooting. In a riveting scene Renee escapes a killer and administers street justice, which of course is second-guessed by the politicians wearing uniforms. The beautiful Hawaiian is tough, relentless, and like Bosch uninterested in sucking up to her superiors. A heroine for our time.
It’s a good weekend read and we will all want more from Connelly and Renee.
Steve E Clark as seen in the New York Times is Author of Justice Is for the Lonely and Justice Is for the Deserving, Kristen Kerry Novels Of Suspense. You can purchase his books via SteveClarkAuthor.com/BuyBook or request it at your local book store. Want to know more about Steve Clark, read more reviews or speak directly with Steve? Learn more about Steve at SteveClarkAuthor.com