Source: Review copy
My thanks to Orion for an early copy for review
AS NIGHT FALLS, A KILLER COMES TO LIGHT…
On New Year’s Eve at the end of one of the hardest years in history, hundreds of revellers shoot their guns into the air in time-honoured LA tradition. But as the rain of lead comes down, a man is shot dead in the middle of a crowded street party.
Detective Renée Ballard soon connects the bullet to an unsolved cold case last worked by legendary ex-LAPD detective Harry Bosch. As they investigate where the old and new cases connect, a new crime shatters the night shift.
The Midnight Men are a pair of violent predators who stalk the city during the dark hours, and will kill to keep their identities secret.
In a police department shaken to the core by pandemic and protests, both cases have the power to save Ballard’s belief in the job – or take everything from her…
I’ve said it before, but it’s true. There is no classier an act than Michael Connelly. His books are sublime. Like any artist, the pictures he draws have depth and range; his characters are three dimensional and everything is contextualised in the brush strokes; none of it heavy handed, but in a few strokes conveying the light and shade that gives meaning to what you are reading over and above a skilled and layered plot.
In The Dark Hours, Renee Ballard is finding it tough going. The protests against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd and the impact of the close-following pandemic has led to a bigger breakdown of public trust in the police than she has known before. The events surrounding the Capitol in January have been so disturbing that it is hard to understand what is happening to American civil society, other than it is substantially less civil than it felt before.
The police are finding difficult to do their jobs and many are simply not bothering to do more than go through the motions. The malaise is impacting on Ballard’s assigned partner and so for much of this case, she is on her own.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Detective Renée Ballard is quietly cursing the insanity of those who celebrate by firing their weapons in the air. A man has died after this ‘celebration’ but it is soon clear that this – the first murder of the year -was no accident. By rights she should pass this case over. She’s not on the murder squad; instead she and her partner are working a serial rape case, sitting waiting for the next victim in the hope that they can find similarities that will allow them to track the perpetrators. But Ballard wants this murder case and she has found a connection between it and one that Harry Bosch worked more than a decade ago.
If Ballard’s partner is lazy and all too often missing in action, Bosch, whom Ballard has worked with before, is the opposite. He may be retired, but he hates to let a cold case go unsolved and Ballard knows he’s as dogged and determined as any policeman.
In The Dark Hours Ballard is working both the serial rapist case whose perpetrators have been tagged ‘The Midnight Men’ and the homicide with Harry Bosch lending a hand and his expertise. She also has to contend with departmental politics and some on the LAPD team who still resent her for speaking out about unacceptable harassment.
Connelly laces his utterly gripping police procedural with some well-placed observations about the current state of America. Not just what’s happening to the Police, but the growing homelessness epidemic, and the growing problem of an unregulated, unchecked dark web where the worst of all aspects of manhood goes to fester and suppurate until it boils over into unchecked rage and criminal action.
Ballard is a smart and determined cop and she is prepared to work all the angles to find the answers to both these crimes. Doing so will endanger her job and her life and cause her to question everything that is important to her. Bosch, despite his brush with serious illness is still mentally agile and a great silent partner to Ballard, using his extensive memory and cold case files to assist and ensuring she has back up when required. They are a terrific team who understand each other and work well together.
Verdict: I got more of a sense of Renee Ballard in this book than ever before and as a consequence she has become more likeable and more admirable. This partnership has fast become unmissable and I really hope that there will be many more to follow. Michael Connelly is such a fantastic writer and these books encapsulate the essence of the best of police procedurals, married with fantastic characterisation, well–layered plotting and a sense of the state of America today that is both riveting and worrying. It is to be hoped that these dark hours are coming just before the dawn…A top class, five star outing not to be missed.
A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Connelly is the internationally bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series, and several other bestsellers including the highly acclaimed legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer. The TV series – Bosch – is one of the most watched original series on Amazon Prime and is now in its third season. He has been President of the Mystery Writers of America, and his books have been translated into thirty-nine languages and have won awards all over the world, including the Edgar and Anthony Awards. He spends his time in California and Florida.