I was a bit of a latecomer to Michael Connelly and his long-running Harry Bosch series (but have been watching the TV show for good measure), so it was great to see that he’s got a new protagonist in LAPD Detective Renee Ballard, who – despite 14yrs on the job – has been shunted to the midnight shift (The Late Show) because she dared accuse a senior officer of harassment.
The Late Show
by Michael Connelly
Series: Renee Ballard #1
Published by Allen & Unwin
on July 12th 2017
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Renee Ballard works the night shift at the LAPD in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she's been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.
But one night she catches two cases she doesn't want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner's wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night
As the cases entwine, they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won't give up her job - no matter what the department throws at her.
I very much enjoyed this new novel and character from Connelly. Renee Ballard is certainly interesting and – it seems – has quite the backstory.
Initially the lack of that backstory felt like a bit of a gap. I wondered if we’d met her in a Bosch / Mickey Haller novel I’d not read – and that may well be the case, however we do eventually learn a bit more of her history as this novel unfolds.
In the end I decided the lack of context (re Renee) was not necessarily a bad thing, although the fact I felt a bit of a gap I guess says something. She’s been a cop for 14 years but had previously planned to be a journalist. Her father drowned when she was just 14yrs old and she lived alone ‘on the beach’ for a couple of years before her grandmother found her and took her in… and there’s obviously some baggage around her mother.
She’s with LAPD and in LA (somewhere… I’m not familiar with its suburbs and neighbours) but part of her seems to dwell in her childhood home of Hawaii. And she seems to kinda live in her van with her dog.
As she’s now working nights she sleeps on the beach in a tent during the day, occasionally visiting her grandmother (where her stuff seems to be stored) for meals etc.
And then there’s the fact that she’s obviously talented and (mostly) well-thought-of but…. accusing her former lieutenant of sexual harassment (which is only glossed over here) means she’s been sidelined to the night shift – where she comes across an array of interesting cases which are then handed off to detectives working the day shift, to investigate.
In this outing we also meet her former partner who apparently didn’t stand by her after her former lieutenant refuted her harassment allegations… which is a sore point as the pair were close.
So… there’s ALL of this interesting stuff, but we only get snippets here and there. Eventually it was enough. Almost… And I do wonder if Connelly plans to share more context in future novels rather than dumping it all on us at once. And in that case, I’m happy I’m here on the ground floor and privy to the world he builds around Renee. Indeed, the fact I think of her as Renee (rather than Ballard) is a sure sign I’ve bonded with her character.
The cases Renee (ahem, Ballard) pursues in this first of the series are both substantial ones and I really liked that they didn’t converge (as is so often the case) but both stood alone without muddying the narrative waters. I tend to groan if there are more than one case (and know I’ve said that very thing about Lynda LaPlante’s new young Jane Tennison novels), but Connelly manages the two, rather distinct, cases well and I liked that one was fairly straight forward and the other more twisty.
I didn’t pick the twist and / or the whodunnit (despite my over-worked little grey cells – from extensive crime fiction reading, rather than intelligence #obvs!), which is a good thing and appreciated that Connelly didn’t opt for the obvious clichés in that respect. There’s also a nice little ‘f*ck you’ at the end of this book.
So in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m LOVING this new series by Connelly and cannot wait for the next instalment.
The Late Show by Michael Connelly was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.