Spotlight Review: DESERT STAR by Michael Connelly

Renée Ballard, Book 5 and/or Harry Bosch, Book 24

From the publisher:

LAPD detective Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch team up to hunt the brutal killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.

A year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. But after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her own ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild and lead the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come volunteer as an investigator in her new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

First priority for Ballard is to clear the unsolved rape and murder of a sixteen-year-old girl. The decades-old case is essential to the councilman who supported re-forming the unit, and who could shutter it again—the victim was his sister. When Ballard gets a “cold hit” connecting the killing to a similar crime, proving that a serial predator has been at work in the city for years, the political pressure has never been higher. To keep momentum going, she has to pull Bosch off his own investigation, the case that is the consummation of his lifelong mission.

The two must put aside old resentments and new tensions to run to ground not one but two dangerous killers who have operated with brash impunity. In what may be his most gripping and profoundly moving book yet, Michael Connelly shows once again why he has been dubbed “one of the greatest crime writers of all time” (Ryan Steck, Crimereads).

“Thrilling… Both cases require deep dives into the past; both lead to great action scenes; and, as always, Connelly displays his encyclopedic knowledge of the latest forensics… Bosch, however, takes a low-tech approach and follows leads in the field with his trademark intensity, driven by his desire to restore order in a violent world… [Desert Star] ranks up there with Connelly’s best.”―Publishers Weekly

“Longtime Bosch followers will be taking deep breaths after this one’s superb finale, especially given its implications for the future.” —Booklist, Starred Review

https://amzn.to/3O2uGym

There is no retiring Harry Bosch. The Vietnam War vet is now a volunteer on Renée Ballard’s new Open/Unsolved unit for the Los Angeles police department. Ballard has been given pretty much carte blanche to run the unit, other than former cop Lou Rawls, who was foisted on her by the local politico who is behind this cold cases reboot. Turns out the councilman has a personal interest; his sister was murdered several years earlier and her killer was never caught.

This new unit is a motley crew that includes a former prosecutor and a genealogy expert/psychic, or empath as she prefers, among others. Bosch agrees to the volunteer position, eager to get his hands on an old case that has been haunting him for years. The Gallagher family – mom, dad, and two young children – were murdered, their bodies dumped in a desert grave and only found by accident a year after their disappearance. But working these two cases takes Bosch down a dark road.

No spoilers here but the ending definitely feels like an ending. I understand it, and I trust Connelly to do the right thing with his most beloved character. This is another gem from one of the finest crime writers in the world – and that is not hyperbole.

DESERT STAR by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company (November 8, 2022). ISBN: 978-0316485654. 400p.

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