I was very excited when Michael Connelly started pairing long-time fan favourite Harry Bosch with newcomer Renee Ballard. It is interesting though as I think Ballard’s character is sufficiently strong and charismatic enough to carry a series on her own. Having said that the pair are perfect foils for each other. Partners but not partners. Officially, anyway. And I like there’s a recognition of what it is the other does well (or not) and a mutual respect continuing to grow between the pair.
The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch Thriller
by Michael Connelly
Series: Renee Ballard #3
Published by Allen & Unwin
on October 21st, 2019
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, J.J. Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral his widow hands Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before -- the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals.
Bosch brings the murder book to Renée Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson's fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point.
The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigation team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved?
Again there are a couple of cases at play here, well at least three and I was a little surprised some of the players we meet early on didn’t return (which is something I kept waiting for). Though I guess they may yet as Ballard handed her contact info over to a teenager she meets while attending the scene of a homeless man’s death.
It’s a case that seems accidental – so not in her purview – which initially gives her a chance to help Bosch out with a cold case. The 29 year old murder book had been taken decades earlier by Bosch’s former mentor and partner. It seems however, he did no work on it, so Bosch can’t understand his motivation for taking the file if he wasn’t planning on pursuing it. Of course it’s intriguing enough to entice Ballard and the pair start revisiting the young man’s death.
Bosch also catches up with his half-brother Mickey Haller who’s defending a man accused of murdering a judge and gets involved when he believes there’s something not right about the case and the investigation.
Already sometimes persona-non-grata with former colleagues he makes even more enemies when he helps Haller get his client off, adamant the cops got it wrong. Naturally he starts his own investigation, angering some high profile players and suspects.
There’s a merging of cases towards the end and I usually get a bit grumpy when it all seems ridiculously coincidental but I’ll let this one slide. (Cos I’m generous like that.)
Bosch is recovering from knee surgery here. He’s on the mend, but Connelly throws a spanner in the works which makes his future a little uncertain. Even his daughter Maddie, who seems to allow her father into her life begrudgingly at times, is affected. And I must admit I was shocked to discover Bosch (the character obvs) is almost 70. I suspect I think of him as ageless.
It felt as if there was a little less focus on Ballard, personally at least but I’m liking her more and more each outing. Perhaps Bosch is rubbing off but she’s more more politically savvy than I initially remember – though we did only meet her after she’d been screwed over by a lecherous boss. She’s settled into the nightshift (Late Show) now and seemingly content to hand cases over to detectives on the day shift, while (often surreptitiously) pursuing those of interest and being dragged into Bosch’s latest exploits.
I wonder – as Bosch ages – is Ballard destined to become the new Bosch? In all honesty, I’d be quite happy if that was to be the case.
The Night Fire by Michael Connelly was published in Australia on 21 October 2019 by Allen & Unwin.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.