. . . The Late Show, Michael Connelly’s latest novel, released last week. As a longtime fan of Michael Connelly, I’ve read all his books and eagerly waited for this one. Would this be another Harry Bosch? A Mickey Haller? Perhaps a Jack McCoy? None of the above. Connelly gives us someone new—LAPD detective Renee Ballard.
I have always admired Connelly’s female characters—Rachel Walling, Cassie Black, Eleanor Wish—but, except for Black, none appeared as the main protagonist. Walling, in my opinion, is one of the best female characters and deserves her own lead. Black is also an interesting character. I once had the opportunity at a book-signing, to ask Connelly if there would be another Black book. He said she’s getting too old for the type of things she does. Connelly, by the way, ages his characters in real time. Harry Bosch is at retirement age and Rachel Walling is nearly there.
But I digress. Here’s the dope on Renee Ballard. Ballard has ten years on the job as a detective in the Hollywood division. Not only is she a woman, she is a wahine, a Hawaiian, raised on Maui, graduate of Lahainaluna. High School, and a fellow alum of the University of Hawaii. When not detecting, she SUPs (stand up paddle boarding.) It is not clear if she is a kama’aina (native-born Hawaiian.) Her father was a surfer. His death by drowning twenty years earlier still haunts her dreams. Her mother is out of the picture. After graduating from UH Manoa with a degree in journalism, she did a brief stint as a crime reporter in LA. That experience convinced her to join the PD and become a detective. (With that background, you could call her a maka ikiu—detective in Hawaiian. Certainly a fitting topic for this Hawaiian Noir blog.)
Ballard resembles Bosch in some respects. She has problems with authority, is impatient with standard operating procedure and protocol, becomes defiant when challenged or blocked. She is ambitious in the way Bosch is ambitious—not for career advancement, but to clear cases and speak for the victim. The late show of the title refers to the night shift in the PD, the eleven to seven shift. Night shift detectives work the cases as they come in, but turn those cases over to the day detectives. They seldom have the opportunity to close cases. The late show is a career dead-end for a detective. Ballard was assigned to the late show after filing a complaint against her lieutenant. So, like Bosch, she has plenty of conflict with her superiors. The Late Show presents Ballard with a couple of cases she is determined to solve. I can’t give away the ending because I don’t know it yet. I’m anxious to get back to it. Ballard is a character I want to spend time with and hope Connelly gives us more. Hell, I’m jealous. Ballard is the kind of character I want to write.
One more thing. Connelly doesn’t make a big deal of this, but it appears that Ballard is homeless. Her home is van and a tent which she shares with her dog Lola.