Midnight with Michael Connelly
Maybe it’s the obscurity or the occasional full moon, but nighttime tends to bring the maniacs out of the woodwork more than anything else, shielding them under the cover of darkness and turning the world into a playground. It’s just an entirely different world from when the sun shines down upon it, and it’s one Michael Connelly is quite keen on exploring in The Late Show, a book that undoubtedly marks the beginning of a new series driven by Renee Ballard, a once promising detective whose career came to a screeching halt when she filed a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor. As the title of the book indicates, she now works the despised midnight shift, a big black sheep in the police force. Every morning she turns over her investigations to the day crew and never gets to see the fruit of her labor… until that one night.
Turning out to be anything but routine, Ballard catches two cases on that midnight shift: the horrifying beating of a prostitute and the shooting of a young woman in a nightclub. Though she must hand the investigations over as usual, something inside of her clicks and compels her to keep working the cases during the day, on her own time, while still performing her nightly duties. As she digs deeper and deeper into the cases, despite her partner’s protests and the department’s best attempts at hindering her, it becomes apparent that something links them, intertwining the two events into a single macabre thread that leads to places very few expected.
An Investigation Worthy of a Documentary
For those of you who aren’t yet acquainted with Michael Connelly and his trademark, I’ll give you the short story: he always meticulously describes the work done by the police force in great detail, painting a realistic picture of the job and its dynamics thanks to countless hours of research. The Late Show is no exception to this rule as the investigations are laid bare before us, giving the reader the opportunity to examine every gear and cog of this complex machine at their own leisure. If their subject matter wasn’t entirely fictional, I would argue that Connelly’s books could have been used as educational material about police work. He knows how to convey all of his technical knowledge without overwhelming the reader with boring facts or obscure jargon; it remains as interesting as the advancement of the plot itself.
Speaking of which, Connelly is surely one of the best authors out there when it comes to weaving together multiple investigations after starting them off as completely separate entities. Seeing Ballard get closer and closer to joining the events is a big part of the thrill as we keep on wondering how exactly all the pieces are going to fall together in a tableau we can’t quite make out yet. While this may not be the kind of plot that will win a Pulitzer prize, it doesn’t really seek to redefine the genre. Connelly knows how to write a solid story which, despite having a few cliches here and there, still has some originality to it and retains your attention with careful pacing, especially when it comes to revealing new information. The ending fits quite logically with everything that transpired before it and will leave you feeling satisfied in regards to its conclusiveness.
The Start of a New Series
Harry Bosch was a good and rugged cop with is own demons and somewhat of an outsider, and Mickey Haller could be described in the same way if we switch out cop for lawyer. Connelly is pretty gifted at molding his characters to this specific archetype, and Renee Ballard also fits into the fold. She certainly has the intellectual and physical capabilities to excel at her profession, but at the same time she wages war on multiple fronts against her own demons as well as some of her so-called colleagues.
She certainly doesn’t have it easy and all the flaws we come to witness in her only make the character that much more likeable and relatable. She’s interesting and it’s apparent that there remains much room for exploration and character-building, something I can only hope Connelly will do with future novels. Considering how it ends, the feedback Ballard has received and how much work Connelly has put into her, I’d say it’s very likely we’ll see her return many times in the future to passionately solve the cases her management begrudgingly chases her away from.
The Final Verdict
To recap this review, The Late Show is a very solid start to a new investigative thriller series by Michael Connelly, introducing us to a new and captivating character in Renee Ballard as well as the author’s beloved traditionally-detailed writing style, especially in regards to police procedures and dynamics. It has a strong cast, a solid plot that holds up to scrutiny, and a story that constantly maintains your attention with unexpected reveals and the occasional sudden twist. If you like police procedural books and thrillers, I think you’ll highly enjoy your time with this novel, especially if you have yet to discover the author’s mastery.
Michael Connelly is perhaps one of the most popular modern writers, starting has career when he discovered Raymond Chandler’s writings at his university. To support himself, he worked at the local newspaper while specializing in crime, which shows in virtually all of his works touching on criminal subjects, such as The Black Box and The Lincoln Lawyer.