Two loner de­tec­tives f ind each other in Michael Con­nelly’s darkly bril­liant new novel

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Books - BY MAU­REEN COR­RI­GAN The Wash­ing­ton Post

The Harry Bosch se­ries started out bleak and, with the pass­ing years, has only got­ten bleaker. The deep­en­ing of the gloom cer­tainly has some­thing to do with the ag­ing of its hero. Back in 1992 when Michael Con­nelly first in­tro­duced Bosch in “The Black Echo,” he was an LAPD de­tec­tive in the prime of his lonely life.

True to hard-boiled form, Bosch even­tu­ally ran afoul of po­lice bu­reau­cracy and got nudged into early re­tire­ment. In the most re­cent nov­els in the se­ries, Bosch has been work­ing as a re­serve de­tec­tive for the cash­strapped San Fer­nando Po­lice Depart­ment where his of­fice is a for­mer drunk tank cell, com­plete with bars. In his down­time, Bosch digs into cold-case homi­cides. Melan­choly hangs thick as smog over this se­ries as Bosch, head­ing into the end zone of his life, re­al­izes that there will never be enough time to fix all that needs fix­ing in this world gone wrong.

Per­haps be­cause Con­nelly him­self needed a bit of a break from Bosch’s com­pany, he de­buted a new de­tec­tive last year in the novel “The Late Show.” LAPD De­tec­tive Renée Bal­lard is half Bosch’s age, but her world­view is hardly any sun­nier. How could it be, when she works “the late show,” as the grave­yard shift is called in po­lice slang? Shunned by many col­leagues be­cause of a sex­ual ha­rass­ment com­plaint she filed against a su­pe­rior, Renée has a per­sonal life that makes Harry’s look healthy: her fam­ily con­sists of her dog and a grand­mother she sees oc­ca­sion­ally; her home is a tent she pitches on the beach.

Given Con­nelly’s predilec­tion for writ­ing mys­ter­ies in which char­ac­ters from dif­fer­ent se­ries in­ter­sect (such as Bosch and his half brother,

“The Lin­coln Lawyer” Mickey Haller), it’s no sur­prise that th­ese two loner de­tec­tives who spend their lives star­ing into the void were des­tined to run into each other and part­ner up (pro­fes­sion­ally).

The only sur­prise is that the in­evitable meet­ing hap­pened so quickly. “Dark Sa­cred Night” is billed as the first “Bal­lard and Bosch novel” and it is in­ge­nious, fran­ti­cally sus­pense­ful, and very, very bleak. In math­e­mat­ics, two neg­a­tives mul­ti­plied to­gether equals a pos­i­tive; in “Dark Sa­cred Night,” how­ever, the pair­ing of th­ese two neg­a­tively charged de­tec­tives only in­ten­si­fies the de­spair.

When the novel opens, Renée has just fig­ured out the so­lu­tion to a par­tic­u­larly grisly tableau of death in a house high up on Hollywood Boule­vard. (Hint: Cat own­ers should al­ways leave plenty of ex­tra kib­ble in the feed­ing dish.) Upon re­turn­ing to her desk at the Hollywood Divi­sion, Renée spots a stranger - an older man with gray hair and “the mus­tache that seemed to be stan­dard with cops who came on in the seven­ties and eight­ies” - ri­fling through an­other de­tec­tive’s file cab­i­nets. Renée sneaks up be­hind the in­truder with her Glock at the ready.

Of course it’s Harry. Turns out he’s try­ing to find old notes on the Daisy Clay­ton mur­der - a cold case that ob­sessed him in his last out­ing, “Two Kinds of Truth.” Daisy was a 15-year-old run­away-turned-pros­ti­tute whose body was found in a trash bin in Hollywood nine years ear­lier. Bosch has got­ten so deep into the case that he has even as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity for get­ting Daisy’s mother off drugs and put her up in the guest bed­room in his apart­ment.

Renée is in­trigued by Bosch’s haunted de­ter­mi­na­tion, so she of­fers to help him read through the moun­tain of field notes, or “shake cards,” as they’re called, filled out by pa­trol of­fi­cers who had rea­son to stop and ques­tion peo­ple on the Hollywood streets in the months be­fore Daisy’s mur­der. But both Bosch and Bal­lard are also on the clock for ac­tive cases, and the novel al­ter­nates back and forth be­tween each of their in­ves­ti­ga­tions: Bosch is as­signed to fig­ure out who or­dered the ex­e­cu­tion-style mur­der of a vi­cious gang leader in the San Fer­nando Val­ley. In ad­di­tion to that fe­line-re­lated fa­tal­ity, Bal­lard re­sponds to a re­port of in­trud­ers on the roof of a strip joint, a sit­u­a­tion that gives her yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to be­hold the en­trenched sex­ism of her male col­leagues.

Bosch, of course, doesn’t share that ma­cho mind-set - and it’s a good thing, too, be­cause with­out Renée’s quick think­ing ... well, I don’t want to ruin the story. Let’s just say that in the spec­tac­u­lar fi­nal third of “Dark Sa­cred Night,” the two de­tec­tives learn the hard way that they have each other’s backs. Af­ter the dan­ger is dis­pensed with, the tight-lipped Bosch of­fers Bal­lard the pro­fes­sional equiv­a­lent of a mar­riage pro­posal:

“[W]e were a good team on this ...”

“[M]aybe we keep work­ing on cases to­gether. ...”

“You can call the shots ... if you like”

For­tu­nately for Con­nelly fans and for the fu­ture of this fledg­ling se­ries, Bal­lard falls for Bosch’s fem­i­nist-tinged sweettalk. We’ll see just how long it takes for Bosch to re­nege on his prom­ise to let Bal­lard “call the shots.”

LIT­TLE Handout

Dark Sa­cred NightBy Michael Con­nellyLit­tle, Brown. 448 pp. $29

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