If anyone does police procedurals better than Michael Connelly, I don't know who it is. He takes us step by step by step through investigations and describes the actions of the police, warts and all. We see when they step over the line into criminal behavior in order to catch a criminal. In Connelly's world, though, their motives are always righteous.
Dark Sacred Night, the title taken from a phrase in the lyrics for "What a Wonderful World," is Connelly's latest effort and it features two of his characters: Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch. Detective Ballard is still working for LAPD on the "late show," the night shift of the department working the streets of Los Angeles. Harry is still working as a reserve officer with the San Fernando Police Department, assigned to working cold cases.
It's a cold case that brings the two together. Harry is working on the case of a 15-year-old runaway named Daisy Clayton who was brutally raped and murdered and her body dumped on the streets of Los Angeles several years earlier. He has a connection with Daisy's mother who he helped to get clean from a drug habit and who he's now trying to keep clean. He has promised her that he will find the person who killed her daughter and bring him to justice.
His investigation takes him to the LAPD and Ballard discovers him there where he has picked the locks and is going through the files. She ushers him out but is intrigued by his interest in this old case and after finding out more about it, she finds herself drawn into it, also. She offers to work with him on the case, working on it in her spare time as a "hobby case." Thus a partnership is born.
Ballard, of course, has a full-time demanding job and Connelly shows us how most of her time is taken up with handling the cases assigned to her in that job. She works on the Clayton case on her own time.
Bosch, too, has other responsibilities with the SFPD, responsibilities that he doesn't seem to be handling very well these days. In fact, he makes mistakes which result in a witness being murdered and then one of his fellow cops trying to kill himself while in Bosch's charge. Maybe Bosch is finally past it and ready to retire. For the third time. In the end, his boss makes that choice for him and suspends him indefinitely. It's unlikely he'll be working for SFPD again.
At least that frees him up to work full-time on the Clayton case.
Connelly, as always, does an excellent job of describing the painstaking and mind-numbing detail involved in looking through records and running down clues to finally isolate potential suspects in a case that is years old and has gone very, very cold. Of course, Ballard and Bosch get there in the end. Was there ever any doubt?
I found it interesting that Connelly referenced several current day events and phenomena in the telling of his story. He referred to the #MeToo movement and in one instance alluded to Stormy Daniels. Moreover, he gives a lot of free publicity to Uber; everybody "Ubers" in the book. Apparently, it is now a verb.
My only problem with this book was the switching back and forth between hot current-day cases and the cold case. It was a bit hard to keep focused and occasionally I lost the thread and had to go back and read a chapter - or at least part of it - to remind myself of where I was. But the story of Daisy Clayton and her mother, Elizabeth, was heartbreaking and the efforts of Ballard and Bosch to bring justice to the case were compelling. It was a good read.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars