‘The Late Show’ By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, 400 pages, $28
“The Late Show” marks another milestone for best-selling author Michael Connelly — the launch of a terrific new series with a female lead. Det. Renée Ballard is a formidable character, an insightful and tenacious investigator with an unusual background and a sturdy personality to carry a series.
Avid fans of Connelly’s long-running series about Harry Bosch needn’t worry. The author will continue to write about Harry, who has found a new career as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando police department. Bosch will make his 24th appearance in Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth,” to be released on Oct. 31. (Read a review of Connelly’s last Harry Bosch novel.)
The big question is whether Renée will replace Harry. At this point, no. Connelly, we hope, has miles and books to go about Harry. But Renée has the makings of a good second series for Connelly.
Fans will be more than pleased with Renée and the well-plotted “The Late Show,” to be released July 18. The title refers to the midnight shift, where Renée has been relegated at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division as punishment for filing sexual harassment charges against her former boss, Lt. Robert Olivas. Renée’s refusal to back down from her accusations resulted in her being moved to “the late show,” ostracized by Olivas and by her partner, Ken Chastain, who witnessed the incident but did not support her with the top brass.
Putting Renée on the late show means stalling her career; detectives on this shift don’t close investigations but hand off cases to their day-shift colleagues. Renée takes a personal interest in two cases. She is determined to follow through on the near fatal beating of a transgender prostitute who says she was assaulted in an “upside-down house.” That’s the kind of case the day detectives are happy to hand over. But Renée’s investigation into a nightclub shooting in which five people are killed is stymied by Olivas, who is leading that case.
Connelly invests his usual solid look at police procedures in “The Late Show,” illustrating how obscure clues and nuts-and-bolts details can lead detectives to the right conclusions. High-tech forensic science helps, too, but it doesn’t replace old-fashioned sleuthing.
The theme of sexism carries throughout “The Late Show,” as Connelly shows that sometimes subtle mannerisms and actions can be intrusive. Renée’s strong personality has potential for growth. Connelly is careful not to give away all of her background, or secrets, as he develops her into a character who can hold her own in a series.
Connelly always has written strong, realistic women who are individuals, not carbon copies of each other. While Cassie Black was the protagonist in “Void Moon” (2000), Renée Ballard is Connolly’s first female series lead. A loner, Renée finds solace and comfort in paddleboarding and being on the beach. Her closest relationship is with Lola, a rescue dog that in turn rescues Renée each day.
Connelly has achieved success as one of the top mystery writers by continuing to keep his storytelling fresh. In “The Late Show,” he delivers an exciting police procedural with a unique character.
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.