Book Talk: Connelly, master of police procedurals
Michael Connelly has shown once again that he is the master of police procedurals in his latest novel, “The Dark Hours” (2021, 388 pages), featuring Renée Ballard. He introduced this character in his 2017 publication, “The Late Show,” where she is bumped from the elite Robbery-Homicide Division to working the night shift in the Hollywood Division, where cases are developed and then handed off to cops on daytime assignments.
Although working graveyard is considered police purgatory, Renée thrives in the environment where she was assigned because she filed a sexual harassment suit against her boss, Lt. Olivas. Her work world involves dealing with COVID, vaccines and anti-vaxers, the homeless, protests against police, the issue of defunding law-enforcement departments, and even police brutality.
“The Dark Hours” opens on New Year’s Eve with Renée and partner Lisa Moore hiding under a freeway overpass with some of L.A.’s homeless people during the “rain of lead,” when celebrants of the New Year discharge firearms into the air at midnight, mindless of where their bullets may fall. In fact, a bullet is recovered from Javier Raffa’s head, and Renée quickly determines that Raffa’s death was not accidental, and it was also not gang-related because he’d bought his way out of the gang when he began raising a family.
The bullet that killed Javier is matched with a projectile from a much older and unsolved case that was worked by now-retired Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Renée decides to take on the case, at least surreptitiously, with the assistance of Harry. But she is also working the case of the Midnight Men, a pair of rapists who have hit on the eves of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Renée’s life becomes hectic when her partner, Lisa, ditches assignment to vacation in Santa Barbara.
Watching the way in which Renée searches out clues and pieces the case together could be a textbook for police academies. Her method links gut feeling with cerebral reasoning and relentless attention to details. And Connelly’s handling of police procedure is fact-based, rather than editorial. His unbiased approach will appeal to both supporters of police and critics of law enforcement.
This is another page-turning, intriguing, and suspense-filled story that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the very end. Moreover, like most of his other novels, “The Dark Hours” can be read as a stand-alone book. In my opinion, it would be helpful — but not necessary — to have read the previous books in the Renée Ballard series.
Connelly’s books in this series also include “Dark Sacred Night” and “The Night Fire.” His other published works include “The Lincoln Lawyer” with Mickey Haller (eight novels) and the Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch series (26 novels). Then, there are key players who show up in a number of his novels as “support” characters: Jack McEvoy (five novels), Terry McCaleb (three novels), and Rachel Walling (eight novels). Connelly fans, like me, enjoy encountering “old friends” in each new novel that we read.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at email@example.com.