Connelly, Michael. The Dark Hours
Little, Brown & Company, © 2021
Narrated by Titus Welliver, Christine Lakin
There’s chaos in Hollywood on New Year’s Eve. Working her graveyard shift, LAPD Detective Renée Ballard seeks shelter at the end of the countdown to wait out the traditional rain of lead as hundreds of revelers shoot their guns into the air. As reports start to roll in of shattered windshields and other damage, Ballard is called to a scene where a hardworking auto shop owner has been fatally hit by a bullet in the middle of a crowded street party.
It doesn’t take long for Ballard to determine that the deadly bullet could not have fallen from the sky. Ballard’s investigation leads her to look into another unsolved murder—a case at one time worked by Detective Harry Bosch.
Ballard and Bosch team up once again to find out where the old and new cases intersect. All the while they must look over their shoulders. The killer who has stayed undetected for so long knows they are coming after him.
It’s New Year’s Eve, 2020. LAPD detective Renée Ballard is on duty. Ballard works the night shift, a fact referenced by the novel’s title. But the night hours are darker than they used to be, in this era of COVID restrictions, charges of police brutality, protest riots, and calls for defunding of police.
As the novel opens, Ballard is partnered with Lisa Moore, a detective from the sexual assault unit, on the lookout for a pair of rapists, dubbed the Midnight Men, who have been attacking young women in their homes. Moore cares only about getting through her shift with as little effort as possible. When a callout comes for a homicide apparently caused by the inevitable New Year shower of gunshots, Ballard goes by herself.
When forensic evidence links this shooting with an unsolved case once worked by Harry Bosch, now retired from the LAPD, Ballard contacts Bosch. Bosch has, in the past, been a kind of mentor for the younger detective. The two agree to investigate together to figure out what the old and new cases have in common.
Criticism of popular culture elements, especially television shows, movies, and books, as creators of copaganda has been increasing for some time. Copaganda, an amalgamation of cop and propaganda, means portrayals of law enforcement officials that glorify and romanticize their roles without addressing abuses of power and authority, and departmental corruption. In the post-George Floyd era, it’s hard not to discuss any new police novel in such terms.
Harry Bosch has been a fictional police officer for 30 years now:
But he has always been an outsider, trying to solve cases while staying as far as possible outside the politics of the LAPD. He has a simple philosophy:
“Everybody counts or nobody counts.” —Harry Bosch
He believes in following the evidence wherever it leads in order to solve the case.
In many ways Renée Ballard is the successor to Bosch in this respect. The Dark Hours is Connelly’s 23rd Bosch novel, 4th Ballard novel, and the 3rd novel in which Bosch and Ballard appear together. When we first meet Ballard, in The Late Show (2017), we learn that she was once a promising detective on the rise who has been relegated to the night shift in Hollywood as punishment for filing a sexual harassment report against her supervisor. So from the beginning we know that Ballard is not one to go with the flow of departmental politics.
Ballard’s position as an outsider to the system is further complicated by her gender and her ethnicity. She’s biracial, part white and part Native Hawaiian. In The Dark Hours, a colleague, trying to figure out her ethnicity, points at her face and says, “You look like there’s something going on there.”
This novel ends with a suggestion that Ballard’s career may be about to take a new turn, and I look forward to seeing how that suggestion plays out in future books. I hope Ballard will continue to consult Harry Bosch. Although he’s now well past retirement age, it’s hard to envision not having him around in some capacity any more.
Good news from Michael Connelly:
New Harry Bosch and Renée Ballard Novel (November 8, 2022)
LAPD detective Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch work together to hunt the killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.
© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown