The Late Show by Michael Connelly: A review

Harry Bosch is now well into his second - and mandatory - retirement from the LAPD. How will Michael Connelly continue his writing of police procedurals about that flawed agency without his main man? The answer, of course, is to create a new and younger detective whose exploits we can follow, maybe for many years to come.

Enter Renée Ballard. 

Ballard is a thirty-something veteran detective with the LAPD. She is from Hawaii originally, but had been brought to California to live with her grandmother after the death of her father in a surfing accident and the abdication of parenthood by her mother. She has a degree in journalism and worked briefly as a journalist before finding her calling with the police. She's had a checkered career with the LAPD, not because of a lack of ability, dedication, and character, but because she is a rocker of the boat.

Five years before, while she was working in Homicide, Ballard filed a sexual harassment complaint against her lieutenant, Robert Olivas. Her partner at the time, Kenny Chastain, had witnessed the harassment and could have backed up her complaint, but for whatever reason - possibly fear of harming his career - he failed to do so. Ballard's complaint was found to be invalid and she was kicked off the elite homicide team and relegated to the late shift, 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. The late show.

Detectives assigned to the late show do the initial write-up on cases that come in during their shift, but then they pass off to one of the day teams, robbery, homicide, sex crimes, etc. They never get to follow through on an investigation. This rankles Ballard considerably, because, like that other now-retired LAPD detective that we know so well, she is dedicated to "her" victims, dedicated to bringing justice for them.

On the night when we meet her, Ballard and her partner, Jenkins, catch three cases. There is a robbery by credit card that eventually turns out to be quite a bit more complicated than it seems at first. Then there is a case involving a brutal assault on a transgender which lands the victim in the hospital near death. Finally, a mass shooting at a club leaves five people dead, including two employees at the bar. Jenkins and Ballard are supposed to write up their initial findings to be passed on to the appropriate unit, but Ballard just can't bring herself to let these cases go, particularly the one with the transgender victim. She manages to stall and delay so that she can continue to work on the case. In the end, that almost costs her her life.

At the scene of the club shooting, she observes her old partner, Chastain, whose skill she respects, doing something odd and secretive. Later, Chastain is shot dead in his own driveway and Ballard finds that he has left a message for her, evidence in the club shooting that he could not trust to anyone else. Ballard ends up working practically around the clock following up on the cases that she was supposed to let go, even though her superiors keep warning her off.

I think a lot of women readers will be nodding their heads in recognition as Ballard faces the effects of the departmental shunning that resulted from her failed sexual harassment complaint. Her career has stalled but she is determined to make the best of it and to continue to take pride in her work and to do it to the best of her ability. Renée Ballard is a very stubborn woman.

Moreover, she has an interesting lifestyle which mostly seems to involve living on the beach with her dog and paddleboarding to clear her head and center herself. I think this new detective has distinct possibilities.

Incidentally, one of the things that I always look for in a Connelly novel are his little "inside baseball" asides. In this instance, one of the "ancillary" victims at the club shooting was a waitress who was a wannabe actress. She had had bit parts in some shows. One of her bit parts was as a waitress on a television show called Bosch about an LAPD detective who is now retired! Fun stuff.

Who knows? There may some day be a television show about a kick-ass female LAPD detective called Ballard.  

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

  

Comments

  1. I will never catch up on Connelly novels but I am going to start with this new series. The beginning sounds a bit like what Antoinette was going thru in The Trespasser.

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    1. There are definite similarities between the two characters, I think.

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  2. Do you think Connelly shelved Bosch for good? In any case, I like this new detective. There is promise of things to come, but with her career stalled, I'm not sure she is going to be able to handle big cases that often, unless she sticks it to the big wigs at the LAPD.

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    1. No, Bosch is still going as a private detective now. I read somewhere that there is a new one coming out this fall.

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  3. Looks good. Are you going to add it to Books You Loved? Cheers

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  4. Excellent review -- I look forward to meeting Renée Ballard, but I miss Harry Bosch and glad to hear (from your comment above) that he may be returning. P. x

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    1. I don't think Connelly will ever completely abandon Bosch. Harry'll probably still be detecting when he gets around on his walker!

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  5. I love the Bosch series and hope he never retires! Renee Ballard sounds like a promising new protagonist--I'm going to add this one to my Goodreads list.

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    1. If you're a Bosch fan, you'll almost certainly like this one. Ballard is right out of the Bosch School of Policing.

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  6. Dorothy, thinking of you and hoping you are safe while Harvey goes through.

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    1. Thank you. We've prepared as best we can and so far so good. I hope your family in the area are safe, also.

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    2. Thank you. They say they are prepared too. This morning it looks like the flooding will be the greatest risk for the next few days. If it makes you feel any better we are having a 5 day heat wave-:)

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    3. Temperatures in the 70s here today. It's an ill wind, etc...

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