Review: The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly’s police procedurals have always viewed law enforcement with skepticism. They have never assumed the justice system functions efficiently. Harry Bosch was always portrayed as an outsider in an insider’s job, dedicated to his mission more than he was to the Los Angeles Police Department; he was in the department, but not of it.

Renée Ballard, Bosch’s unofficial apprentice and the star of “The Dark Hours,” is the same. She is the quintessential police detective. She lives to solve cases, but constantly finds herself bogged down in petty departmental politics and bureaucracy, particularly now, with the LAPD’s policies focused on optics, because the public’s mistrust of law enforcement is at an all time high. Here, she juggles two investigations: the murder of former gang member Javier Raffa, and the hunt for a pair of serial rapists dubbed “The Midnight Men.” 

‘It had been a bad year with the pandemic and social unrest and violence,’ Connelly writes. ‘The police department had been vilified, and [Ballard] along with it.’ He imbues his narrative with germane texture, and his storytelling mechanics are as smooth as ever, the hard slog of police work enthrallingly explicated. Another writer might attempt to link the two investigations, but Connelly keeps them separate, the two stories twisting around each other but never touching. It’s a masterclass.

Bosch appears in a supporting role, but this is Ballard’s story; she works tirelessly to solve both cases, putting her career and life on the line. But the true tension is derived from her deliberation over whether her future is with the badge, or without it. 

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