Saturday, October 07, 2017

What we're reading: Connelly's new character

People who are hooked on the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly have been wondering for a while now what would happen when Harry just plain got too old to be a part of any police force in any way, shape or form. After all, he has already retired twice and gone back twice, and then in the last book (The Wrong Side of Goodbye), he became a private investigator, but also started volunteering at a little police station out in the San Fernando Valley, working cold cases for them.

There has been much speculation about where Connelly would go next; after all, he has introduced several characters in the past few Bosch books who seem qualified to inherit the Bosch mantle. Personally, I was pulling for "Lucky" Lucy Soto, Harry's up-and-coming young Latina partner from The Burning Room, a few books back. I also wondered, since in that same book Harry's daughter Maddie expresses determination to become a cop, whether Connelly would bring Maddie in tangentially and then let her take over the franchise, so to speak.

But it looks like Connelly has made his decision, and it was to invent a whole new character: Renée Ballard. She is a young detective who seems to share Bosch's bad luck with authority; in Renée's case, her lieutenant from the homicide squad sexually harassed her, and when she filed a complaint but no one in her unit would back her up, he took revenge by transferring her to The Late Show, which is what the detectives all call the night shift. While Renée's partner, Jenkins, is happy that they don't have to follow through on any of the cases they collect during the wee hours, Renée is frustrated by the lack of continuity, and manages, whenever she can, to finesse it so she gets to participate a little longer in whatever it is. That, of course, turns into some trouble for her, when she gets in over her head without sufficient back-up.   

I wasn't sure, in the beginning of this book, that I would take to Renée in the same way that I enjoy Bosch. The beginning of this book was a little ponderous, and I feared Connelly had lost his touch; but both the book and the characterization picked up nicely somewhere in the middle, and remained compelling until the end. I'm not sure what it was--at the start, it felt like too much police procedural jargon without the personal touch to back it up. But by the end of the book, I felt like Renée Ballard was nicely established, and since the tagline on the cover reads "introducing Detective Renée Ballard," and since Goodreads lists this book as "Ballard #1," it seems she will stick around for awhile.

The most interesting thing about Renée is that she is technically homeless; her permanent address is her grandmother's place, up in Ventura, but she spends most days (remember that she works the night shift) sleeping in a tent on Venice Beach, accompanied by her rescued dog and watched over by an amorous lifeguard. She keeps clothes in her van and at work, showers and changes in the women's locker room, and generally lives a nomadic life divided between police work and surfing. This author definitely likes his loners.

Connelly isn't complete finished with Bosch, however; he has a new book in that series coming out later this year, and as it happens, "Lucky" Lucy is a character again. So it looks like he's going to wean us from Bosch gradually by alternating his detectives and their series.

Editor's note: We own The Late Show as a book, a large-print book, an audio book, an e-book, and an e-audio book! You will probably be on hold no matter which you choose, but with so many options, your wait will hopefully be short...

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