The Late Show is the first book in the Renee Ballard series by one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly. Now, reading the Michael Connelly books has been a great joy for me, not only in terms of his Harry Bosch series but his Mickey Haller, Terry McCaleb, and Jack McEvoy series as well.
And now we have Renee Ballard: a kick-ass heroine who has been unfairly demoted to work the Hollywood night shift, fondly (and with snickers) called “The Late Show.”
The demotion means that all Renee and her partner, Jenkins, do is pick up incoming cases during the night, start the work-up on them and then, come next day, hand them over to other cops who will end up closing those cases. So really, Renee and Jenkins are nothing but the delivery guys of the department.
And this hurts Renee all too much, but there is nothing she can do about it but trudge on. When she filled a sexual harassment complained a few years back against her superior, Lieutenant Robert Olivas, her partner of the time, Kenny Chastain, didn’t back her up but instead sided with the boss. So, in the “he said she said” situation, she basically lost.
Jenkins, who has a sick wife at home, is perfectly happy working the night shift so he can be with his wife during the day, but Renee is itching to get back into action and become a real detective once again.
A particular night Renee and Jenkins get not one, but two cases that they need to check out. As it turns out, it will become a very busy night. One case involves a shooting at a pub while the other the savage beating of a transsexual prostitute called Ramona Ramone. And one of the cases really catches Renee’s eyes and she decides to see it to the end without giving it up to the day shift. She keeps delaying the filing until the next day so she at least gets to keep the Ramona Ramone case for a little longer. What starts as an interesting but routine investigation turns into something much bigger, one that might mean the end of Renee’s career if things go South.
Harry Bosch, along with Jack Reacher, is one of my favorite characters in the genre. And before I picked up the Renee Ballard book, that’s what I thought would remain. Now, I have to add another character as favorite because Renee deserves all the accolades she gets.
She is strong and not afraid to speak out when she needs to. The setback that she is in right now doesn’t deter her from doing her job. Others in her position would have probably left the police a long time ago maybe to become a PI. Not LAPD Detective Renee Ballard.
She truly loves being a detective and even when there is a chance to move back as a daytime detective, she declines it. Granted, she has her reasons for it, but again, others would have jumped at the opportunity right away. She has a very solid moral compass and all her actions in this first book reflect that. Renee is determined to do right by the victims even if it endangers her own job.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Renee is not without her flaws. She is human, after all. But her vulnerability makes her the special person she is. Pity that not many other cops recognize this as a positive in her.
The issue that Renee faces at work, that of women in public jobs and their harassment by their colleagues and superiors is not new. It has always been a problem. Thankfully, during the last two months or so, something is being done about it. More and more women are coming forward and they are no longer afraid to speak up. These days the news is full of recent cases, which shows real progress for women.
That’s why I am glad that Michael Connelly touched on this topic in the very first book of his Renee Ballard series. It is an important issue and even fictional characters can do a lot of good in inspiring women to come forward and challenge their attackers.
Michael Connelly has a real winner with Renee Ballard. The second book in the series should be published soon, so I’m really looking forward to grabbing it the moment it hits the stores.
The Late Show by Michael Connelly
Series: Renee Ballard #1
Published by Orion
Genres: Crime Mystery