I’ve read all but a few of Connelly’s mysteries, and I just scarfed down the newest, The Dark Hours, the fourth in the Renée Ballard series. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all four, but was disappointed that Connelly pulled Bosch into the series after the first installment, The Late Show. I felt that it diminished Ballard’s ability to stand on her own as a character, and that Connelly was trying to satisfy Bosch fans who would be unhappy with Bosch just riding off into the sunset.
In the new book, the show definitely belongs to Ballard, even as the cover touts the book as “A Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch Novel.” Bosch plays a significant but backup role. He makes contributions but mostly functions as Ballard’s partner, the way various characters have functioned as Bosch’s partners in past.
Like many of the Connelly novels, The Dark Hours involves concurrent investigation of two crimes. One is a series of rapes by a pair of bad guys whom the cops refer to as the “Midnight Men.” Their M.O. is to break into their victim’s house while she’s asleep. Ballard must work with the Sexual Assault Unit on this case, specifically with Lisa Moore, one of the L.A.P.D. officers who are seriously demoralized by the attacks on the police department. Moore lacks the requisite enthusiasm for the investigation, leaving Ballard largely on her own.
The other crime involves a murder that occurs at a New Year’s Eve celebration within minutes of the start of the 2021. The victim, who bought his way out a major gang years earlier, dies of a bullet to the head, a bullet that was clearly intended to be masked by the discharge of shots welcoming the new year. The bullet casing links the murder to a cold case that Bosch had investigated years earlier. When Ballard learns that the murder book for that case is missing, she goes to Bosch, who doesn’t have it. They link up to work together as Ballard struggles to hang onto the case, which she is supposed to turn over to the Homicide detectives.
With her stubbornness and maverick style, Ballard has appropriately inherited Bosch’s mantle. In the end she disobeys orders and gets herself put on suspension. This, however, does not stop her work on the two cases.
Of all the Bosch novels, this one most directly ties in with current events, in particular, the impact of the January 6 U.S. Capitol Insurrection on the L.A.P.D. and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on life in L.A. and on the P.D., and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Changes in Ballard’s personal situation add progression to the series. With the beaches closed due to Covid, she has taken an apartment. Her dog, Lola, a pit bull mix, has died of bone cancer, and she finds a new rescue dog, Pinto, a Chihuahua mix small enough to be acceptable in the apartment. And when a fleeing bad guy knocks her down a stairway and she bangs her head, leading to a mild concussion, the EMT who assists her, Gerrit Single, follows up socially, marking the beginning of a possible romance.