The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The prolific, best-selling detective fiction novelist Michael Connelly’s latest offering, The Dark Hours (Simon & Schuster, 400 pp., $29, hardcover; $14.95, e-book) is billed as a Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch novel. Ballard and Bosch may get equal billing in this fast-paced, cleverly plotted thriller, but the book is about 80 percent Los Angeles police detective Renée Ballard and 20 percent retired LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch.

That’s not a bad thing, but it was a minor disappointment for someone (me) who has bathed contentedly in Connelly’s seventeen Bosch-centered novels beginning when The Black Echo burst on the crime-writing scene in 1992. Bosch also plays second fiddle in three Mickey Haller—“the Lincoln Lawyer”—novels and two previous Ballard cop procedurals.

Bosch is a Vietnam War veteran in his late seventies, now retired. Mostly. Ballard, more than a generation younger, is working full time on the overnight shift (which she prefers) helping bring bad people to justice. As she has in the previous B&B books, Ballad winds up asking Bosch to help solve a case—actually two cases, a murder and a serial rapist rampage. He readily agrees and provides invaluable help, although Ballard does virtually all the heavy lifting and gets the lion’s share of screen time.

In doing so, she displays her smarts, compassion, and dedication to bringing bad people to justice. Not coincidentally, those are quintessential Bosch-like qualities. Ballard also runs afoul of the LAPD hierarchy because of her tendency to bend the rules in her quest for truth and justice—another thing she has in common with Bosch, who was not afraid to break a rule or two to help a crime victim get justice.

This one starts on New Year’s Eve 2021. Ballard has to deal with the pandemic’s effect on policing and a climate of mistrust of the police stemming from the previous year’s social unrest. Bosch provides invaluable help to Ballard with his knowledge and experience; she puts her life on the line (as Bosch has done many times) in pursuit of the bad guys. No plot spoilers here as there is a typical Connelly thrilling denouement with a shocking and surprising ending.

As for Harry Bosch, his service in the Vietnam War as a tunnel rat never comes up. I guess we’ll have to wait for that in the next Bosch stand-alone. For now, I’ll have to be content to watch Season 7 of the great Amazon Prime series “Bosch,” which is now streaming.

The series is based on several of the Bosch novels, but Connelly and his co-creators changed the script and Bosch has morphed into a post-Vietnam War veteran.

No one said life is perfect.

–Marc Leepson