The Late Show: Michael Connelly

The Late Show brings us a new series from author Michael Connelly and this time, instead of Harry Bosch,  it’s Renée Ballard, a detective in the Hollywood Division. Renée and her partner, Jenkins, work at night, “the midnight shift, the late show, moving from case to case, called to any scene where a detective was needed to take initial reports or sign off on suicides. But they kept no cases.” She’s been shelved and transferred to this shift following a sexual harassment complaint, which was thrown out, against Lt. Olivas. Ballard is still bruised from the experience, but she’s dealing with it, working hard, and trying to do her job.

The Late Show

The book opens with a call to the home of a woman whose credit card appears to have been stolen, and then it’s onto Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center for the vicious beating and torture of a young woman (later discovered to be trans gendered), but before Ballard can press for forensic tests, another victim arrives from a quadruple murder that occurred in a Hollywood Club called the Dancers. When that victim, a waitress at the club dies, Ballard goes to the club to talk to witnesses.

So we have three crimes: a credit card theft, the beating and torture of a transgender person, and a multiple homicide at the club. The shooting at the club is odd. How are the victims related? –they’re an assorted trio of felons, a bookie, an enforcer, and a drug dealer, all in the same place at the same time, shot to death. And the drug-dealing waitress was “collateral damage.”

“Did anybody in here tell you they saw the waitress get hit?”

Jenkins scanned the tables, where about twenty people were sitting and waiting. It was a variety of Hollywood hipsters and clubbers. A lot of tattoos and piercings. 

“No, but from what I hear, she was waiting on the table when the shooting started,” Jenkins said. “Four men in a booth. One pulls out a hand cannon and shoots the others right where they’re sitting. people start scattering, including the shooter. He shot your waitress when he was going for the door. Took out a bouncer too.” 

Ballard is supposed to pass off the cases she works on the Late Show to the day team, but this is a driven detective who, still smarting at an unjust transfer, wants more.

She manages to wrangle holding onto the transgender torture case, but since the victim is in a medically induced coma, many questions are unanswered. Ballard’s partner Jenkins is distracted by his wife’s illness, but Ballard, who likes to go solo in her personal and professional life, starts investigating both the club shooting and the torture cases on her own. …

I thought I knew the direction the plot was heading, but I’m delighted to say that I was wrong. When it comes to crime enforcement, author Michael Connelly obviously has respect for the profession, but not every cop is idealized, and many flaws fester under the badges of some of the characters in these pages. The book’s visceral tone draws the reader into Ballard’s cases, and there’s a sense of immediacy–we are there with Ballard, an intriguing protagonist, who is strong enough to lead a series. It’s fun to think that we know how all the procedures of police work, but occasionally, only occasionally, there were too many details. But apart from that niggling issue, The Late Show is a pageturner.

Review copy.

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15 Comments

Filed under Connelly Michael, Fiction

15 responses to “The Late Show: Michael Connelly

  1. JJ

    Wow, a driven cop smarting at injustice who likes to go it alone is confronted with a case they’re supposed to drop but still pursues against orders? Connelly’s really running out of ideas, huh? I read him religiously up until about The Burning Room, but suddenly grew tired of the sort of washed-out prose he started writing later in his career when it just felt like he was trotting out another “Harry Bosch thinks something is up and he’s right” pot. Sounds like he hasn’t broken the mould yet…!

    • I haven’t read the Bosch series so I can’t comment on running out of ideas. I have watched the series and thought the last two were better than the first.

      • JJ

        And, to be fair, I haven’t read this so it’s entirely possible he’s found some new way to approach the same old ground. I guess I’d just like to see someone with his guaranteed level of success and a hugely committed fanbase take a few more risks in offering up a “new” series character that is actually genuinely new.

        • And to be fair back, I understand what you mean. Perhaps for Connelly, writing from a female perspective was the challenge. I don’t know … when you have a winning formula perhaps it’s harder to risk it than if you’re less successful?

          • JJ

            That sounds about right, but it’s horribly backards, ain’t it? He’s one of the, if not the, biggest-selling crime writers on the planet, anything he writes will sell in the hundreds of thousands, I’d imagine…take a risk, dude, show people it’s okay to try something new. Aah, well.

  2. I’m amazed at how Connelly manages to keep up the quality, considering that many of his contemporaries e.g. Patricia Cornwall haven’t. I haven’t read one of Connelly’s for ages, but I’ve loved nearly all of the ones I have read. Must make time – my constant refrain!

  3. I’ve had this one on hold for a while – and am finally up to “next”!

  4. Sounds as though there’s plenty of scope for character development with the lead detective. I sometimes wonder if I should try one of Connelly’s novels just to see how I get on with him. Most of the crime novels I’ve been reading were written in the 1940s or ’50s, so it might be interesting to try something contemporary for a change. Is there one in particular you would recommend? Something that could be read as a standalone?

    • This is the only one I’ve read, but there are standalones.

    • JJ

      Blood Work is probably a good place to start if you’re more of a 1940s and 50s fan — it’s a standalone, and the basis for the deeply terrible Clint Eastwood movie…but don’t let that put you off, it’s far, far cleverer and more finely plotted as a book, and will scratch your usual mystery-structure itch while also giving a sense of Connelly as a writer.

      • That’s great – thank you. I am a 1940s/’50s fan, so chances are I’ll fare well with that one. The Clint Eastwood movie rings a vague bell, but it’s so far in the past that I’ve forgotten all the details of the story now.

  5. I’ve never read Connelly, he didn’t seem to write my kind of crime fiction. Not sure I’d want to try this one. How’s the style? Isn’t it a bit mechanical?

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