Author: Michael Connelly

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

ISBN: 978-0-316-48480-0

Dark Sacred Night is Michael Connelly's latest mystery starring California police detective Harry Bosch. Harry, as a result of events that occurred in an earlier book, no longer works for the Los Angeles Police Department but is working part time as a reserve officer for the San Fernando PD. Harry is probably in his early 60s, is a widow, with a daughter in college, and has taken in a recovering drug addict, the mother of a murdered child.

In this book, Connelly introduces Reneé Ballard, a 32-year-old LAPD detective who provoked a departmental transfer when she reported the sexual harassment of a superior. Ballard now works "the late show," the graveyard shift out of Hollywood Station. By the end of the book, Bosch and Ballard have formed a team. In fact the cover of Dark Sacred Night says that this is "A Ballard and Bosch Novel." 

So what makes Connelly so great?

First, although Harry Bosch has been the main character in twenty previous novels, you need not have read them to understand and enjoy this one. Too often series writers have to (or feel they have to) explain why the detective is the way he is by summarizing a previous book. We don't need to know why Bosch no longer works for the LAPD; if we care we can read the earlier book. 

Next, Connelly tells his stories from the limited third-person point of view. The Dark Sacred Night story begins with a title page: "Ballard" in which we travel with her to the scene of a death. Forty-three pages later, another title page: "Bosch," in which we learn that Bosch is working on a nine-year-old cold case. While we switch between Ballard and Bosch, which gives Connelly somewhat more freedom of action  we are never in any other point of view. Too often for my taste the writer puts us in the mind of the murderer,  coyly not identifying him (or her), or in the point of view of the victim; I think it's a form of cheap—unearned, perhaps—suspense. 

Finally, Dark Sacred Night sounds as if this is what police work is actually like. Both Ballard and Bosch have to spend an inordinate amount of time on tedious, boring, unproductive tasks. Connelly is able somehow to evoke this side of police work without writing a tedious, boring book. Also, Ballard is called out to investigate at least three other cases during the time the novel covers. These a're not all deaths, not all the deaths are homicides, and the homicide is solved, like most, within forty-eight hours. (I've read that if a murder is not solved within two or three days, it may never be.)

Dark Sacred Night is a police procedural, with the stress on procedure. I can imagine a complaint that  Ballard and Bosch are too focused on the work; we don't get enough of their internal, their emotional lives. I would disagree, perhaps because I am a man. Neither Bosch nor Ballard is dropped from Mars. They do have, or have had, families and current relationships. They are not lonely figures riding off alone and separate into the dawn at the end of the book. They do solve the crime (a given in a mystery), and both the crime and its solution feel plausible. With Bosch and Ballard teaming up, there's more to come and I look forward to reading it.