Michael Connelly’s latest detective novel, The Late Show, his 30th, introduces a new female detective, Renee Ballard.
She’s banished to the night shift in Hollywood after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.
Any skepticism I had lifted like the morning fog on a steamy LA beach. Breaking with stultifying routine, Ballard is called to the bed of a mangled prostitute at the ER. Then, within minutes, she and her partner are called to a Hollywood Boulevard nightclub where there has been a multiple homicide. Among the dead is Ballard’s former partner.
These haunting scenes drive Ballard to seek answers. She obsessively works outside the rules and under the radar, pursuing leads officially at night and as a rogue during the day. More on the job than off, and practically homeless, she naps in a portable tent pitched on Venice Beach as her dog faithfully keeps watch.
Ballard’s quest finds her winding through the narrow roads of Laurel Canyon, on the beautiful, if seedy, boardwalk of Venice, in a science lab at USC, and navigating the maze of police department office cubicles, where getting the best computer and crime data requires as much calculation as taking down a suspect.
Michael Connelly’s depiction of the adrenaline-fueled nature of detective work is equal parts dangerous, risky and satisfying. Renee Ballard may not be one of the guys, but that works in her favor, and assures her place among the best female characters in contemporary crime fiction.