THE DARK HOURS by Michael Connelly

Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch, Book 4

From the publisher:

“A masterpiece”—LAPD detective Renée Ballard must join forces with Harry Bosch to find justice in a city scarred by fear and social unrest after a methodical killer strikes on New Year’s Eve (Publishers Weekly).

There’s chaos in Hollywood at the end of the New Year’s Eve countdown. Working her graveyard shift, LAPD detective Renée Ballard waits out the traditional rain of lead as hundreds of revelers shoot their guns into the air. Only minutes after midnight, 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.

Ballard quickly concludes that the deadly bullet could not have fallen from the sky and that it is linked to another unsolved murder—a case at one time worked by Detective Harry Bosch. At the same time, Ballard hunts a fiendish pair of serial rapists, the Midnight Men, who have been terrorizing women and leaving no trace.

Determined to solve both cases, Ballard feels like she is constantly running uphill in a police department indelibly changed by the pandemic and recent social unrest. It is a department so hampered by inertia and low morale that Ballard must go outside to the one detective she can count on: Harry Bosch. But as the two inexorable detectives work together to find out where old and new cases intersect, they must constantly look over their shoulders. The brutal predators they are tracking are ready to kill to keep their secrets hidden.

Unfolding with unstoppable drive and nail-biting intrigue, The Dark Hours shows that “relentless on their own, Ballard’s and Bosch’s combined skills…could be combustible” (Los Angeles Times).

This latest from America’s best crime fiction writer is truly extraordinary. Connelly has attempted several series, but all the characters end up overlapping; he just can’t leave anyone behind. This series started out as Renee Ballard, but Bosch shows up as he does here. It is her book, with a strong assist, if you will.

I like Ballard. She’s honest, smart, and hard working. If all cops were like her, we would live in a much better, safer place. But they’re not, and that comes to the forefront during the pandemic when this book is set. Ballard works the late shift, the overnight shift AKA the dark hours, and she loves it. She has no partner and no one to bother her. She turns over any cases that come up to whatever department handles them, be it homicide, sex crimes, robbery, etc.

On New Year’s Eve, all the cops are scheduled to work in uniform. There is a tradition in Los Angeles of firing guns in the air at midnight, and Ballard is ready and waiting under an overpass. She is quickly called to a crime scene when a man goes down during a street party. She quickly realizes this wasn’t an accident, so she starts investigating. She learns there is a relationship between this victim and another old, cold case but the murder book is missing, checked out to one Harry Bosch, the lead detective at the time.

Bosch has become a mentor to Ballard, so she feels no hesitation in contacting him. He is happy to help, even more so if he can also solve his old case. There is a definite connection, but the homicide division is busy with a high profile case, so Ballard runs with it, at least until they force her to turn it over.

Ballard is also working a sex crimes case. Two men have been targeting women and raping them during holidays, and the cops are calling them the Midnight Men. Most rapists work alone, so this is unusual. They are also very careful, leaving no DNA or evidence of any kind. They are breaking in without any issues, lying in wait for the target, and one of their tells is that they cut off a hunk of hair from their victims. Ballard lands the third case, and is incensed when she realizes the cops in the sex crimes division are not being thorough, to say the least. In fact, the woman she is partnered with on this case couldn’t be less empathetic if she tried. She is more interested in going away for the weekend with her boyfriend and leaving Ballard to handle things on her own.

Both of these cases are keeping Ballard busy, too busy in fact, she is barely sleeping. Ballard had to stop surfing and sleeping on the beach when the beaches were shut down due to Covid. She was ill with Covid for a few weeks, but survived better than many others and is hoping she has enough antibodies to protect her until she is eligible for the vaccine. And she lost Lola, her beloved dog, to cancer so she spends a lot of her off time cruising animal shelter websites looking for another dog.

Bosch is helpful as always, and is her backup most of the time. But to solve these crimes will take more than the apathetic LAPD has to offer. The pandemic is playing havoc with everyone, especially those sworn to protect and defend and Ballard is getting sick of it. She wears her mask, takes Bosch to get vaccinated, adopts a new dog, even meets a man. Her life is busy and she likes it that way, but she isn’t sure she wants to be a cop anymore.

There is a lot going on in this book, yet it moves fast. I love seeing these characters grow and evolve. The writing is perfect; descriptive enough without ever going too far and it never slows up. Publisher’s Weekly called this book a masterpiece, and I agree. You don’t have to read the series in order or anything, this book definitely stands alone, but there is so much more richness, more depth to it, when you are familiar with the past. Either way, don’t miss it. You’re welcome!

NOTE: Get a printable list of all the novels in published order, as well as a breakdown by series character:

NOTE 2: Bosch is a terrific TV series on Amazon Prime that just ended a seven season run. It is excellent, which almost never happens when a book shows up on a screen. Titus Welliver is Harry Bosch. A spinoff is filming now.

11/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DARK HOURS by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company (November 9, 2021). ISBN: 978-0316485647. 400 pages.







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