Written by Michael Connelly — Just this summer, we took at look at the Harry Bosch series. Harry first appeared back in 1992 in The Black Echo and here he is, still going strong, in book 22. Actually, ‘strong’ may be a little optimistic. After all the guy is pushing 70 now and as The Night Fire begins he is walking with the support of a cane after undergoing knee surgery.
That’s one of the great things about this series – time is allowed to move on along realistically, and our hero is definitely beginning to feel his age. Daughter Maddie is in college, unable to decide whether to become a cop or a lawyer and Harry is on his own in his wonderful house overlooking Los Angeles. Time to take up a hobby and kick back a bit? No way. Like Rebus in the excellent Ian Rankin books, this is not a man to go gentle into that good night. So Bosch is itching to get busy but he’s out of the LAPD and therefore out of the loop.
Which is where Renee Ballard comes in. This is the second Bosch/Ballard collaboration and the third Michael Connelly book to feature her. Ballard is a current LAPD detective, stuck on permanent nights (known as The Late Show – also the title of the book which introduced her) after she reported her boss in the Robbery-Homicide Division for sexual misconduct. Captain Robery Olivas is still on the up and up, pressing for a last promotion before retirement, while Ballard is treading water.
But strangely, she’s turned this setback into an advantage and actually enjoys working graveyard. She likes getting stuck into a case before other officers take over in the daylight and it leaves her ample time to pursue her own cases – hence her off-the-record partnership with Harry Bosch, which was introduced in Dark Sacred Night and is now is in full flow.
Bosch has a new case for them to ponder upon. The book opens as he’s attending the funeral of John Jack Thompson, his mentor back in the day. The detectives had stayed close, and John Jack has left a little something for Bosch – the murder book for an unsolved case. How well he knew his student! Of course Bosch can’t resist a read, and then he takes it to Ballard for a second opinion. What on earth was so interesting about the apparent drug-related killing of an addict in an alleyway? As they look more carefully, a troubling picture begins to emerge… Maybe John Jack wasn’t the man Bosch thought he was.
Meantime, Ballard’s interest is piqued when a homeless man dies in an accidental fire in his makeshift home. It’s something that strikes a chord with Ballard, who is all but homeless herself and spends part of the day sleeping in a tent on the beach with her dog. She suspects foul play, and as the pieces begin to fit together it’s clear that she may be right. But how is she going to make anyone else believe it?
Author Michael Connelly expertly entwines these storylines, and several others, like a master weaver until there’s no way you want to put the book down. Another strand involves Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer who is Bosch’s half-brother and it’s also a doozy. Sleep is going to come pretty low down on the list of priorities as The Night Fire draws you in.
As ever, Connelly’s rendering of Los Angeles is right on the money. His attention to detail is second to none and when Bosch and Ballard meet in a variety of great eating places you can almost savour the aroma of the meals they order.
So plot and placement are on point in The Night Fire, but best of all is the growing respect and camaraderie that our two central characters demonstrate. Bosch is already well loved by crime fiction fans and I have little doubt that Ballard is going to worm her way into our affections too. Harry may be getting on, but hopefully we can hold back the vagaries of time and give him a new lease of life by working with Renee. Is there another chapter in the pipeline? Judging by the end of this book, I’d say it’s a resounding yes – and that’s great news!
Check out our guide to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. Another compelling crime fighting partnership features in MW Craven’s The Puppet Show.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars