Review: Dark Sacred Night

Michael Connelly – Dark Sacred Night

Published by Orion, paperback £8.99. I borrowed a copy of the book.

I’ve dipped into Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series over the years, and though I haven’t made the time to read the full series I’ve always found them to be intriguing and thoughtful books, and there’s no doubt that Bosch is an iconic character. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Renée Ballard novel, The Late Show, finding her easy to relate to despite the fact her life and her job are so removed from my own experiences – gold star there for Connelly – so when I saw he’d put the two together, I was keen to see the result. In a serendipitous moment I was visiting my parents a while back when a neighbour loaned my dad a stack of books and this was among them, so I kidnapped it for a weekend.

Daisy Clayton was murdered nine years ago, but the killer was never found and the case went cold. Harry Bosch turns up at Renée Ballard’s station during a night shift to take a clandestine look at files that he thinks may hold a clue to what happened. Ballard, her curiosity piqued, follows up with the detective whose filing cabinet drawers were rifled, her instincts on overdrive at the thought of the presence of a sophisticated sexual predator on her turf, never mind the fact that it’s officially a cold case.

She then checks in with the detective officially assigned to the case, Lucy Soto – Bosch’s former partner before his retirement. Soto tells Ballard that Bosch didn’t work the case but knows Daisy’s mother. “He’s doing it for her,” says Soto. “Like a dog with a bone” – which gives both Ballard and a reader new to Connelly a big hint about the character. (We’ve already seen Ballard’s credentials established as she examines a crime scene assumed by those first on scene to be a murder, only to accurately call it an accidental death.)

Now working part-time as a reserve officer at San Fernando Police Department, Bosch spends his time on cold cases – his own as well as the department’s – a smart way to keep a favourite cop character in play, as well as a smart way in real life to tap into the knowledge of long-serving, dedicated detectives.

We flip between Ballard and Bosch working on their own cases and the work they do together on Daisy’s case, though progress here is slow – and then it takes a back seat as another cold case Bosch is working on gets uncomfortably hot for the detective and SFPD. But thanks to Ballard, things swing back in their favour. Then finally she makes a breakthrough in Daisy’s case – and suddenly it’s not just Daisy’s case, it’s something else entirely.

It’s all about the characters with Connelly – the plot isn’t inconsequential, but it’s there to feed the characters rather than the characters being there to serve the plot. It’s what makes this series so popular, and so readable over such a long time. Bosch has changed over the years, but he’s always worth reading – and I think Ballard is going to bring a whole new audience to Connelly.

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