Book review: Desert Star by Michael Connelly

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 Permalink

I’ve enjoyed Michael Connelly’s pairing of stalwart Harry Bosch with Renee Ballard who we first met in The Late Show, a reference to the fact that Ballard worked nights. When this opens Bosch and Ballard haven’t spoken for some time and their relationship’s tense. I was worried I’d missed something and thought their previous outing (The Dark Hours) had ended amicably.

We pick up here a year later however, and quickly learn that plans for the pair to go into business together did not come to fruition and Ballard (instead) returned to the LAPD… leaving Bosch hanging.

Book review: Desert Star by Michael ConnellyDesert Star
by Michael Connelly
Series: Renée Ballard #5, Harry Bosch Universe #36
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on 08/11/2022
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 9781761065446
Pages: 388

A year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. Yet, after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him but that he hasn’t been able to crack—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come work with her as a volunteer investigator in the new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

Ballard lures Bosch back (as a volunteer) to work with her cold case team with one of his unsolved cases, but there’s some politics in play first – namely the 1994 murder of the sister of a City Councilman who’s a big supporter of Ballard’s new unit (and vital to their continued funding). Bosch believes the original investigators did some good work but very quickly identifies some new leads and they’re able to link the case with another (more recent) murder.

The murder of the women  (and perhaps others) is the focus of this book, but in the background Bosch dips in and out of the old case Ballard’s promised him… the cold-hearted murder of a family and disappearance of the key suspect.

I like that Connelly has paired Bosch and Ballard but also wonder (in retrospect) if the latter needed the readership support that comes with the legacy of Bosch. A bit like famous writers co-authoring with a less-known writer. It benefits both but you need to wonder how long it can continue. Interestingly Ballard is probably a little less quirky than when we first met her… when she lived out of a car and slept in a tent on the beach during the day, going to work at night. The pairing with Bosch requires her to the be the sensible and steady one I guess, but I really liked old Ballard. New Ballard still feels very real and comes with a lot of substance, but I’d like to see a bit more of Renee, the person, I guess.

I appreciated the inclusion of genealogy here and it’s a reminder of the positive impact that technology can have on our lives. The linking of cases by DNA isn’t new, but with increased DNA testing by those searching their family history means more and more information (connections and linkages) is publicly available.

This is another great offering from Connelly who throws some twists into the case involving the murdered women, but ensuring readers (and the women’s families) get some closure. And Bosch finally nets his ‘white whale’, but the question is what to do with them?

Desert Star by Michael Connelly was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and released today.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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