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The Late Show

Review

The Late Show

THE LATE SHOW introduces readers to Renée Ballard of the LAPD detective bureau. We meet Michael Connelly’s newest character right out of the box, as she and her partner John Jenkins --- a 25-year LAPD veteran --- answer a call on the midnight to eight shift, nicknamed the late show by the cops who staff it. The call concerns a missing credit card, but it enables Connelly to give his protagonist a soft opening before getting to the good stuff, which is to say the bad stuff, as in a brutal assault on a prostitute and a mass murder in a popular nightclub.

It is the latter two cases that showcase Connelly’s first-rate chops at writing police procedurals --- chops that never seem to get old or lose their luster. As Ballard investigates the brutal assault on a hooker in L.A.’s twilight world, Connelly drops a bit of backstory about her here and there throughout the narrative. Ballard was on an upward trajectory in the LAPD until she accused her supervising lieutenant of sexual harassment. He, of course, denied the charge, and her partner at the time (not Jenkins) refused to back her up. The end result is that Ballard got shunted to the late show, a less-than-glamorous shift on which the officers are de facto hunter-gatherers, passing off the cases they collect during the night to the day shift.

"[T]he focus of THE LATE SHOW remains entirely on Ballard, and with a sequel in the works, I certainly will not turn down the opportunity to read it. More Connelly is good Connelly."

Ballard manages to get and keep the assault case --- one that, for various reasons, could otherwise get buried in the shuffle --- but finds herself attracted to the club killings, a no-no given that it most definitely is not her case. She begins a pattern of quietly working the cases by day while working her regular late show shift at night, much to the chagrin of all, including Jenkins, who worries that she’ll really step in it. The way in which Ballard attempts to balance her on and off hours also gives Connelly a chance to explore her personal life as well as her past.

She was born in Hawaii but moved to Los Angeles with her father, who disappeared under a big wave while surfing with her. She now lives with her dog and occasionally her grandmother, but appears to be only a step or two up from homeless, a state that she seems to have acquired by choice rather than by circumstance as she lives on the beach and dogpaddles into the ocean every chance she gets. One gets the sense that her relationships with those outside of her family are transitory at best. But she has mad skills for detective work that ultimately hold her in good stead as she works all three cases (don’t forget that stolen credit card), following wherever the evidence leads her, no matter how dangerous or surprising the result may be.

Ballard won’t make you forget Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller, but I suspect that was not Connelly’s intent. He has created --- intentionally or coincidentally --- a geographical link among the three characters that will keep his world bordered firmly by the Los Angeles megalopolis and suburban San Fernando, with Haller straddling both. I give mad props to Connelly for getting through the entirety of this book without mentioning either of his (current) primary characters. He had to have been tempted and would have been justified in doing so. Nonetheless, he persisted without them. Thus the focus of THE LATE SHOW remains entirely on Ballard, and with a sequel in the works, I certainly will not turn down the opportunity to read it. More Connelly is good Connelly.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 21, 2017

The Late Show
by Michael Connelly

  • Publication Date: July 18, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316225983
  • ISBN-13: 9780316225984