Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night picks up where his two previous novels, The Late Show and Two Kinds of Truth, left off. Renée Ballard continues to work the late shift for Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division. Harry Bosch continues to work cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department.
They meet by happenstance when Ballard finds Bosch snooping through Hollywood’s case files in search of information about the murder of Daisy Clayton, whose mother, Elizabeth, Bosch rescued at the end of Two Kinds of Truth. They strike a bargain and investigate the case together. Along the way, Ballard and Bosch investigate other cases on the side, but it’s the Daisy Clayton murder that drives the plot forward.
As per usual with Connelly’s novels, this one is a page-turner. I started reading it after dinner and finished it before I went to bed. It held my interest throughout. Even the side plots kept my interest. What I love about Connelly’s novels is the way he moves the plot forward by means of good detective work, rather than an investigator’s flashes of insight. You see Ballard and Bosch working the evidence, piecing the story together bit by bit. This approach keeps you hooked, because you want to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Additionally, I love the fact that unlike other serial novelists that I love to read—I’m looking at you, Lee Child and Craig Johnson—Michael Connelly is smart enough to realize that Bosch is getting older and simply can’t sustain the pace, the intensity, or the beatings he endured (or gave out) in previous novels. With this novel, Connelly seems to be moving his focus toward Ballard and transitioning Bosch into a lesser role. That’s great, as far as I’m concerned, both because Ballard is an intriguing character and because I still enjoy Bosch.
I’m not giving Dark Sacred Night a five-star review, however. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend reading it, but it’s not at the top of Connelly heap. I have two reasons for this: First, the side cases. One of the side cases is designed solely to introduce a character. Ballard’s side cases (an accidental death, an art theft, and a gruesome murder) are solved too perfunctorily. Bosch’s main side case is more interesting, but it’s difficult to tell whether how it ends is designed to set up a transition in Bosch’s life or to introduce a problem for a future novel. Second, a moment of intimacy between Bosch and another character seems way out of character for him. You’ll know what I mean when you read the novel.
Despite this, I’m happy with Dark Sacred Night, and I look forward to whatever Connelly cooks up next year. My guess is that Renée Ballard will play the leading role and Harry Bosch a supporting one. And that’s okay with me. They’re both great characters.
Michael Connelly, Dark Sacred Night: A Ballard and Bosch Novel (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018).
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