The Late Show: Getting to know Renee Ballard

The Late Show by Michael Connelly Book review

What is this about?: Renee Ballard, a cop on the late show AKA the night shift at her precinct. In this first book, she gets involved in two very different cases, but they’re incidental in a way because more than anything this is…

What else is this about?: … about Renee Ballard. It’s a getting to know you book, and Connelly just happens to throw her into two very different and emotional cases.

Blurb: A pulse-pounding thriller, introducing a driven, young detective trying to prove herself in the LAPD.

Los Angeles can be a dangerous city – never more so than in the dead of night. 

Renee Ballard works the night shift at the LAPD in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.

But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner’s wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night.

As the cases entwine, they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won’t give up her job – no matter what the department throws at her.

Stars: 3.5/5

Connelly has been writing forever, it feels and I am fairly certain I have read some of his work, but I have to confess I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. My theory is it’s Michael Connelly, and I’ve always loved crime and mysteries, so I must’ve read something. My point was, this feels like a first time read for me, and I have no idea if this is how he writes generally, but I LIKE it. 

Renee Ballard 

Renee is a loner, a cop who doesn’t make close friends, but when she does, I get the sense that it’s for life. That’s why the betrayal by her former partner, Chastain, burns so much — though granted, she has good reason to hate him if he hadn’t once been a good friend. Thanks to him, she’s stuck on the late — LATE — shift at her Hollywood precinct, partnered with Jenkins, a man who wants to punch in and out every day, without expending too much energy he’d rather spend with his sick wife. Renee understands that, but here’s where they’re different — there are cases she wants to see through — and that’s how (and why) this book is about getting to know what makes Renee tick. 

Renee and her cases 

Ramona is a transgender prostitute when she is beaten and left for dead. Renee and Jenkins catch the case, and while Jenkins doesn’t agree, Renee wants to follow the case through — she wants to find the person that did this to Ramona  and not send it over to the day shift. She wants to know who would do this to her and starts to investigate the case on her own. 

For all that she’s a loner, Renee is immensely empathetic, and determined to find who would want to destroy Ramona, which is what the beating seems like. As she begins her investigation, she finds herself assigned to another case — a shooting at club, where an innocent waitress is killed in the ensuing gunfight. It’s through this case, that readers learn about her past, her determination not to let a betrayal and an utter ass of a superior derail her career, such as it is in the late shift.

She isn’t reckless, she’s methodical and knows that knowledge is power — it’s that which lets her continue her investigation while flying under the radar of her superiors, and navigating the office politics around her. On the surface, she seems like an enigma to those around her but she’s actually straightforward, and determined to do right by the people that trust her as cop — even if it means trying to get information out of a Mumbai call centre about an old lady’s stolen credit card.

There isn’t much to learn about why she is like this — there’s the betrayal by Chastain, stemming from a sexual harassment claim she made against her superior, in which he didn’t support her, there’s her grandmother Tutu, and her mother in Hawaii, who she hasn’t seen in ages … but why is she like this?  Could it be her father’s dead? Perhaps, it is as simple as that, but I can’t quite let go of the idea that there’s a puzzle piece missing to her.

Overall, this was a thrilling and intense introduction to Renee and the the late shift, and the kind of read where I didn’t even realise how much I had read because the ending was suddenly just there. I love it when that happens, and this one crept up on me, with the narrative growing in intensity with each chapter. 

Are you a Michael Connelly fan? What book of his should I read next??


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