Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: 'The Late Show' by Michael Connelly

Renée Ballard is a veteran cop who made enemies when she reported her superior for sexual harassment and lost the case. She is now relegated to night duty, a shift known as "The Late Show." Ballard is partnered with John Jenkins, a decent detective who, for personal reasons, is not inclined to go above and beyond the call of duty ("he had been running on empty for a long time"). Renée, on the other hand, is a workaholic whose main focus is solving cases, even if they are not assigned to her. Her first order of business is tracking down the brute who viciously assaulted Ramón Gutierrez, a transgender prostitute. Renée also sticks her nose into an investigation that is receiving widespread media attention. Four men and one woman were gunned down in a nightclub; the shooter escaped. Renée surreptitiously gathers information and conducts her own inquiry into the crime. In her spare time, she paddleboards, visits her grandmother, and showers affection on her dog, Lola.

"The Late Show" has many of Connelly's trademark touches. There is a great deal of police jargon and rich California atmosphere (Renée relaxes by sitting on the beach and taking a spin on her paddle-board). The heroine's sleuthing involves paying close attention to forensic details; examining witness statements; conducting surveillance; and using her insight into how people think and behave to point her in the right direction. She is tough-minded and independent, sasses individuals who rub her the wrong way, and risks her life to insure that justice is done. Renée is single-minded in her determination to see matters through to the end, and has a Houdini-like ability to extricate herself from difficult situations.

This story is readable but breaks little new ground. Connelly's villains are vicious killers who are bent on eliminating anyone who gets in their way. Ballard is a one-person homicide squad. She uses her contacts, street smarts, and powers of persuasion to learn the truth and make the perpetrators pay for their crimes. Alas, "The Late Show" is too cut-and-dried and lacking in nuance to be ranked among Connelly's best works of fiction. Although Renée Ballard is undoubtedly tenacious and caring, she could use a bit more charm, humor, dimension, and charisma. These quibbles aside, "The Late Show" is action-packed and intriguing enough to please Connelly's legion of loyal fans.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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