Book Review – May 2019 – Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

Sometimes I think if you looked up the word, “pageturner” in a dictionary, you’ll be greeted by a picture of the author Michael Connelly. I’ve read him for years – since the early 90s – and unlike other authors of whom I was a fan around that time, I’ve never tired of or outgrown his work. (Patricia Cornwell is an author I also read back then, but in that case, I think it’s more, “it’s not me, it’s her.”) Jonathan Kellerman is the only other author I can think of who’s still writing and who I still read – but my love for him doesn’t compare to my love for Connelly, or, more specifically, Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, his most prolific and successful creation. I’m delighted to finally see great adaptations of his novels on Amazon Prime – although personally I’m more of a reader than a viewer of crime fiction.

Connelly is now facing the difficulty of Bosch having retired from the LAPD, although he does investigate cold cases pro bono as a reserve for the small San Fernando PD. So this one isn’t just a Bosch book – it also features Renée Ballard, to whom we were introduced in the very good recent novel The Late Show. Harry Bosch has had his fair share of partners over the years (Kiz Rider and Jerry Edgar immediately spring to mind), but Ballard is probably the most idiosyncratic of them all. Having spent her childhood in Hawaii, she loves the beach – to the extent she doesn’t have a permanent home, preferring instead to work her night shift (the late show, as it’s known) then drive to the beach in her van and pitch a tent, grabbing a few hours sleep after doing some paddleboarding.

Bosch and Ballard start working together on the LAPD cold case of Daisy Clayton, a 15-year-old runaway murdered 9 years previously. Ballard’s job means Bosch can gain access to LAPD material, and although the two solo operators are initially unsure how much trust to place in one another, they eventually begin to work as a team – especially after Renée extricates Bosch from a sticky situation resulting from his investigation into a gang-related murder in San Fernando. They’re actually very similar types of people – both essentially loners, married to their work; dogged investigators; and both subscribing to Bosch’s oft-cited view that “everyone counts or no one counts.” Ballard is very skilled at sizing up a crime scene and seeing exactly what occurred, something which is wonderfully demonstrated at the beginning of the novel when she is called to what looks like a particularly unpleasant murder scene. As well as Daisy’s murder, various other crimes are investigated along the way (the aforementioned crime scene Ballard’s called to, which morphs into another crime; Bosch’s gangland cold case.) They don’t all tie together the way they would in some novelists’ work; rather they demonstrate the strange and fascinating world of policing in Los Angeles – particularly at night. I also enjoyed getting an insight into how LAPD used to work, with the “shakedown”, or field interview cards. The sexism still rife in the Department is well illustrated in a “boys will be boys” case where some young teenagers are caught peeking at a strip club. Daisy’s case shows how Hollywood Boulevard – to cinema-goers and tourists, the epitome of glamour – has a much seamier side, particularly during the dark sacred night that supplies the book with it’s title. 

Connelly’s success comes from knowing this city’s dark sacred nights inside out himself from his days as a crime correspondent on the Los Angeles Times (you can read some of his work as a reporter in the excellent Crime Beat.) Bosch and Ballard make a fine combination – it’s always been hard to find a partner who matches him in tenacity, and personality, as we’ve got to know him so well. His daughter Maddie is now away at college and has only a peripheral role to play in this novel, although I’ve often thought Connelly may intend to write books featuring her exploits (as a rookie cop, presumably) when the time comes. For now, though, there’s only room for one Bosch on the mean streets of LA, and this book should please dedicated fans and newbies equally. And I really wouldn’t expect anything less by now. Superb stuff indeed.

Don’t miss it! 

I received an advance review copy of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Orion Books. This is an unbiased review. 

BLURB: LAPD Detective Renée Ballard teams up with Harry Bosch in the new thriller from #1 NYT bestselling author Michael Connelly.

Renée Ballard is working the night beat again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself and it brings a deep tug of empathy and anger.

Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.