I love Michael Connelly’s Detective Renee Ballard series, even more so in the recent novels in which he’s paired her with his stalwart Harry Bosch.
Ballard’s a bit of a lone wolf in LAPD and normally works alone, so – despite Bosch’s murky reputation with his former colleagues – I like the collaborative ‘smarts’ and insight we see when the pair join forces… not to mention the mutual respect and camaraderie.
The Dark Hours
by Michael Connelly
Series: Renee Ballard #4
Published by Allen & Unwin
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction
There's chaos in Hollywood on New Year's Eve. Working her graveyard shift, LAPD Detective Renee Ballard seeks shelter at the end of the countdown to wait out the traditional rain of lead as hundreds of revelers shoot their guns into the air. As reports start to roll in of shattered windshields and other damage, Ballard is called to a scene where a hardworking auto shop owner has been fatally hit by a bullet in the middle of a crowded street party.
It doesn't take long for Ballard to determine that the deadly bullet could not have fallen from the sky. Ballard's investigation leads her to look into another unsolved murder-a case at one time worked by Detective Harry Bosch.
Ballard and Bosch team up once again to find out where the old and new cases intersect. All the while they must look over their shoulders. The killer who has stayed undetected for so long knows they are coming after him.
This book opens on New Years Eve as 2020 becomes 2021 and Ballard and her colleague on a rape task force take cover from gunfire. (As a complete aside) I lived in Cambodia for nearly 8 months in 1997 and there was often talk about people killed accidentally during celebrations. It was common to fire guns into the air – during festivals or even if longed-for rain finally arrived – but I’d wondered if it was really a thing. And now, thanks to Connelly and his creations, I’ve now discovered it is! (And I’m less confused about the opening sentence and the annual rain of lead.)
I loved Ballard in this outing. She’s determined to hold onto the NYE shooting even though she knows it needs to be handed over to a Homicide team. Of course her bond with Harry and his involvement in a related shooting years before (not to mention her propensity to work during her time off) helps her progress the case more quickly than she normally would.
And then there’s the serial rapists who’ve been given the moniker The Midnight Men. Ballard’s recently been moved into a small taskforce but her partner’s not pulling her weight and here Ballard realises assumptions her team has made may not be correct.
Connelly sets this amidst a backdrop of Covid, a lack of community confidence in the police and subsequent funding cuts. Morale in the police service has waned and it seems many are just going through the motions. But not Ballard of course, though even she wavers here… wondering if it’s worth all of the internal battles she needs to fight to work with the system.
Ballard is front and centre in this latest book and I liked that Connelly is progressing her story arc and developing her character. She’s moved from her tent on the beach to an apartment and there’s even a smidge of romance on offer. He also balances Bosch’s involvement well. The septuagenarian has always got insight and ideas, but plays a support role rather than taking the reins himself.
This is a really enjoyable book and I appreciated that there was no attempt to bring the two cases together in any way (as I hate the overly contrived approach we often see in crime fiction and thrillers); rather we’re offered two separate mysteries. I should also mention Connelly adds a twist in the rape investigation, offering something a little different.
The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and available from 9 November 2021.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers for review purposes.