The Night Fire by Michael Connelly – review

The 6th and penultimate season of Bosch coming soon to Amazon Prime, and I was intrigued to see that one of the novels the season will be based on is Dark Sacred Night, which was the previous Ballard and Bosch novel, published in 2018. This makes me wonder whether Renée Ballard, Connelly’s most recently created character protagonist, will make an appearance in the TV show. I doubt it: I expect they’ll write around her.

In the Ballard and Bosch novels, Bosch is retired, aged around 70, and still working cold cases, whereas in the TV show he’s very much still a working LAPD detective. It’s a shame in a way that they didn’t have Bosch retire at the end of season 5, because the way he ducks and dives and weaves around the system to work cold cases is part of the entertainment of these late-period novels.

Meanwhile, the living working detective on the scene is Ballard, on the outs with her department after making a complaint against a superior, and exiled to the overnight shift, or The Late Show, as the first novel featuring Ballard was called. Here, she’s working solo, no partner, except of course her partner is the retired LAPD detective Harry Bosch.

With Polynesian ancestry and a traumatic childhood, Ballard is a true eccentric, sleeping off her night shifts in a tent on the beach and apparently living out of the back of a van. Her only job is to attend incidents and pass on any active cases to the day shift, but of course she doesn’t do that.

In her second appearance, in Dark Sacred Night, she encounters Bosch, who has sneaked into the LAPD to hunt through some files for a cold case he wants to close, and after throwing him out, Ballard discovers a kindred spirit.

Connelly’s now writing his novels like the TV show, in that we’re working multiple cases at the same time, and crossing paths with people we’ve met before, such as Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer and Bosch’s half-brother. So here we have Bosch doing a favour for Haller, then digging deeper, and also working a couple of cases with Ballard. Are these cases connected? It seems unlikely…

The Night Fire opens with Ballard at the scene of the tragic death of a homeless man whose kerosene heater has apparently overturned and burned him alive while he slept in a drunken stupor. Meanwhile, Bosch is helping Haller acquit a man accused of murdering a judge: a man whose DNA was found under the judge’s fingernail and who confessed to the killing when interviewed by police. He also attends the funeral of a former colleague and is presented with a file by the man’s widow: a cold murder case that the retired cop had stolen from the department – but which he didn’t appear to have worked.

But why hold onto it if he wasn’t going to try to solve it? It’s up to Ballard and Bosch to find out. The Night Fire is a very entertaining read, and a typical Connelly page turner. But don’t dive in here. Start with The Late Show and read forward.

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