Review: The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

9781760876012-1I have read all 32 — now 33 with The Night Fire — of Michael Connelly’s crime novels at least twice, and I’m almost certain I’ve read each instalment in the Harry Bosch series on three or four separate occasions. These books are nestled in my bookcase, spines proudly creased, pages yellowed; worn, and loved, and returned to. If one author epitomises precisely what I want from my crime fiction, it’s Connelly: enthralling police procedurals without the outrage pyrotechnics that blight many of his peers.

There has been a notable shift in Connelly’s writing since the premier of the Bosch television series. In the early days, the books focused on a single investigation. Think of Angels Flight, when Bosch investigated the murder of a high profile black lawyer; or City of Bones, when a chance discovery leads Bosch to discover a shallow grave in the Hollywood hills. More recently, Connelly’s novels have handled multiple narrative threads; separate investigations, not always connected, twisting around each other. Think The Wrong Side of Goodbye and Two Kinds of Truth.  These novels read more like a television series; each chapter an episode contributing to an overarching story. One style is not better than the other, necessarily; in fact, I appreciate the evolution and refinement of Connelly’s craft.

The Night Fire is a perfect encapsulation of this ‘new’ brand of Connelly. Once again uniting former LAPD detective Harry Bosch — approaching 70, but who still bleeds blue despite giving up his badge years earlier — and Renee Ballard — an active cop who works midnight shift; the ‘late show’ — this new novel focuses primarily on their dual investigation into the cold case of the unsolved killing of ex-con John Hilton, whose murder book was hidden away in Bosch’s recently-deceased former partner’s study, for reasons unknown, but which we’ll discover. At the same time, Ballard is working her own case: the arson that killed a homeless man inside his tent. And as if Bosch didn’t have enough on his plate, dealing with a medical diagnosis that ties back to 2007’s The Overlook, he finds himself involved in the defence of the client of his half brother, Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller. Because if the defendant on trial isn’t responsible for the murder he’s accused of, there’s still a killer out there, who the police aren’t looking for. a

Connelly’s genius is his ability to render the slow, meticulous, dogged pursuit of murderers absolutely captivating. He is the unrivalled master of the police procedural. The Night Fire is a maze of distinct investigations, and Connelly is the perfect guide. Nothing excites me more in crime-lit than when Bosch has jazz playing on the stereo, he’s poured himself a mug of black coffee, and is about to open a murder book. I hope he’s got a few more cases left in him, but contented knowing Ballard is a more than capable replacement; not just a Bosch facsimile, but a character who lives and breathes in these pages.

ISBN: 9781760876012
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 416
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 21-Oct-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

 

Review: Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

9781760528553.jpgAn excellent police procedural in its own right, and a definitive novel in the Harry Bosch series. This is crime writing at its very best.

Dark Sacred Night and the last handful of Michael Connelly’s novels —  Two Kinds of Truth, The Late Show, and The Wrong Side of Goodbye were clearly influenced by the superb Bosch television series. Which is not the derisive comment you might think it is; far from it, in fact. As necessitated by the medium, every season of the Bosch TV series merges various plot elements from two or three of Connelly’s books into one cohesive narrative; Bosch might be working more than one case, for example, and these two plots twist around each other like the double helix of a DNA strand. Connelly has adopted this technique with his last few books to great effect, and has ensured the recent Bosch novels, and the first Renée Ballard thriller The Late Show have felt very different to his earlier output. As exemplified by Dark Sacred Night, Connelly’s work is tauter  — leaner and meaner — than it ever has been. And it’s great. It’s not that he’s reinvented his style or storytelling devices; rather, he’s just completely reinvigorated his writing. And it takes a very good writer indeed to modify a formula that’s garnered critical acclaim and landed places on bestseller lists worldwide for so long.

When Connelly introduced Renée Ballard in The Late Show, most readers would’ve assumed it was only a matter of time before she crossed paths with Harry Bosch. Few would’ve thought we’d witness that so soon. When Ballard meets Bosch, late one night during another graveyard shift, he’s rifling through an old filing cabinet, desperate for information on a cold case that’s sunk its teeth into him. Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway who was brutally murdered almost a decade ago, whose mother he met  — as did readers — in Two Kinds of Truth. Ballard is initially suspicious of Bosch, but it quickly becomes clear: they’re both driven by the same desire for justice. So, still not entirely bonded, they agree to assist each other: Bosch on the outside, Ballard on the inside.

Meanwhile, Ballard is repeatedly distracted from the Clayton case by various callouts on her midnight shift. Most of these serve as momentary distractions, offering cool insights and anecdotes into Ballard’s history, and life in the LAPD. Bosch, too, can’t give the case his all: still attached in a part-time capacity to the San Fernadno Police Department, he is ready to serve a warrant on his prime suspect in the murder of veteran gang member Cristobel Vega. But things immediately go south, and Bosch finds himself facing the wrath of the Varrio San Fer 13, one of the oldest and deadliest gangs in the San Fernando Valley.

Dark Sacred Night is Connelly in fine form. It’s very rare when the thirty-second book by an author leaves you desperate for the next one, but Connelly delivers every time. The first Ballard & Bosch novel is  a multilayered and multifaceted mystery, chock-full of moments of heart-pounding suspense, and a conclusion that rocks Bosch’s world to its core. Hours after I’ve put the book down, I’m still recovering from its reverberations. Michael Connelly —  the proven master of the genre continues to astound.

ISBN: 9781760528553
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 29-Oct-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Late Show by Michael Connelly

9781760630782Michael Connelly’s last Harry Bosch novel, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, was another in a long line of masterful police procedurals. Make no mistake: Connelly’s work is the standard to which all crime fiction should be held. It would be easy for the author, with his 30th book, to rest on his laurels: another Bosch novel; maybe another Lincoln Lawyer legal thriller. Instead, he’s gone and created a brilliant new protagonist, LAPD detective Renée Ballard, who has worked the night shift ever since her failed sexual harassment claim against Lt. Robert Olivas, her supervisor at the Robbery Homicide Division. And while there are plenty of similarities between Ballard and Bosch — a thirst for justice, and penchant for going rogue, to name just a couple — Renée’s no female carbon copy of the now-retired Harry. She’s fresh and distinct, inhabiting the same world of torment, fear and danger as Bosch, but providing a very different perspective. Please, Mr. Connelly, sir: don’t let The Late Show be Ballard’s first and last appearance.

Ballard works the night shift at the LAPD’s Hollywood Division alongside her partner, Jenkins, accustomed to initiating investigations, but finishing none, as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. When she catches two cases on the same night, she can’t part with either. One is the brutal beating of a prostitute; the other is the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting.  Despite orders from her superiors and her partner to back off, leave it alone, and let the assigned day shift detectives handle both cases, Ballard launches dual unsanctioned investigations, both of which could lead to her losing her badge, or even worse, her life.

The landscape and themes Connelly explores in The Late Show will be familiar to readers who’ve followed Harry Bosch’s exploits since the beginning, but there’s something refreshing about this young, driven detective’s perspective. When we met Harry in The Black Echo, he was already a seasoned detective with a ton of baggage; it’s very cool to see Connelly try his hand at a less experienced, but no less determined investigator. Long-time readers will also notice characters (or their  kin) from previous novels popping up, either as key players or just in the background. It’s easy to forget, we’ve been reading about Harry Bosch since 1992, more than 20 years, and the world’s continuity remains remarkably intact.

As is his hallmark, Michael Connelly wonderfully combines a mass of procedural detail, a speeding, Byzantine plot, and a flawed hero. The Late Show engages from the first page and never lets go, and Renée Ballard is a character I want to be reunited with as soon as possible. Smartly put together, expertly paced and unpredictable. Just great stuff. To use an oft-repeated word when reviewing Connelly’s work: masterful.

ISBN: 9781760630782
ISBN-10: 1760630780
Number Of Pages: 320
Available: 12th July 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU