Harry Bosch teams up with LAPD Detective Renée Ballard to face the unsolved murder of a runaway, and the fight to bring a killer to justice.
Detective Renée Ballard is working the night beat — known in LAPD slang as “the late show” — and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin.
Ballard can’t let him go through department records, but when he leaves, she looks into the case herself and feels a deep tug of empathy and anger. She has never been the kind of cop who leaves the job behind at the end of her shift — and she wants in.
The murder, unsolved, was of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally killed, her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy, and to finally bring her killer to justice. Along the way, the two detectives forge a fragile trust, but this new partnership is put to the test when the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.
In Dark Sacred Night, the 21st novel featuring Detective Harry Bosch, he finally teams up with Connelly’s most recent fictional detective: Renée Ballard. Introduced in The Late Show (my first of Connelly’s books), I have been eagerly anticipating these two characters coming together. Two detectives utterly committed to their mission, they make for an excellent team. Couple these great characters with a gripping, moving story of loss and justice, and you have yet another must-read novel.
In the previous novel in the Bosch series, Two Kinds of Truth (which I reviewed a couple of days ago), the detective went undercover to bring down an illegal opiate operation. In the course of that investigation, he pulled Elizabeth Clayton out of the life — he managed to convince her to go cold turkey, enter rehab and put her life on a better path. In Dark Sacred Night, Bosch takes it upon himself to solve the case of Elizabeth’s daughter, Daisy’s death — the instigating event that set Elizabeth on the path towards opiate addiction. At the same time, he investigates the murder of an aging gangster in the San Fernando Valley, where he volunteers for the police department.
Meanwhile, Renée Ballard is working her own cases on the Late Show. When she stumbles across Bosch in the homicide department, he eventually asks for her help in tracking down Daisy’s killer. Intrigued by Bosch and his situation, she agrees, giving the older detective access to relevant materials and also helping him carry the load of checking various pieces of evidence.
The novel alternates between Ballard’s perspective and Bosch’s. It’s a great way to split the case, as well as handle the characters’ different ‘shift’: after all, Ballard is on the night shift and Bosch works slightly more regular hours — given their levels of obsession, it is not a surprise that they both work longer hours than is probably healthy and sustainable.
We learn more about Ballard, in her second novel, which I really valued. She’s a fantastic character and, while she does share some characteristics with Bosch, she is her own person, with her own issues and motivations. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the novel is seeing Bosch’s growing admiration and respect for Ballard, why he is so drawn to working with her. We see just how alike they are — her determination, her sense of justice are echoes of his own.
Ballard had never been the kind of detective who could leave the work in a drawer at the end of shift. She carried it with her and it was her empathy that fueled her.
With Ballard still working within the system, and Bosch outside, there are some of the anticipated clashes in tactics. Bosch, at one point, contemplates crossing a line he will not be able to uncross, but at the last minute he resists. At the start of their working relationship, Ballard is wary of Bosch’s methods and agenda.
“It’s weird,” Ballard said. “I like working with him and think I can learn a few things. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I can trust him. It’s like he’s not telling me everything he knows.”
Overall, then, this was another home run of a novel. Two of my favourite detective characters, working together, and an excellent story of a cold case and investigation. Connelly does a great job of showing the protagonists balancing their main, assigned cases with their work on Daisy’s cold case. I know this review has focused on Ballard and Bosch, but it’s important to point out as well that all of the characters in this novel, central or otherwise, are realistic and expertly drawn.
Superb writing, wonderful attention to detail and characters. As with every other novel in the series, I can’t recommend it enough. A must read.
Before posting this review, I was able to finish the latest novel in the series — The Night Fire — which brings together Ballard, Bosch and also Mickey Haller. Another superb novel, I’ll post a review hopefully later this week.