THE BOOK NOOK: Michael Connelly launches new crime fiction series

The Late Show” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 405 pages, $28).

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The Late Show” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 405 pages, $28).

“The Late Show” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 405 pages, $28).

In July 2004 I began writing my weekly column on books for this newspaper. Some years ago a wind storm that was the remnant of a hurricane knocked out the power at my house for a week. That’s the one week I failed to turn in my column. I am celebrating my 13th anniversary one week late.

I enjoy sharing my book picks with you. Recently I asked Lee Child to name writers he admires. He mentioned Michael Connelly. I asked John Sandford the same question. He named Michael Connelly, too. Lee Child, John Sandford, and Michael Connelly rank among the top thriller writers in America. Connelly has been a guest on my radio program but I have never reviewed one of his books. It’s time.

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Connelly sets his books in Los Angeles. His latest one, “The Late Show,” marks the beginning of a new series that features Renee Ballard, a police detective serving in Hollywood. A sexual harassment complaint she had filed against one of her superior officers was dismissed. Afterwards Ballard got exiled to the night shift.

While she resents the demotion, she’s mostly OK with it because she loves her job. As the story open Ballard and her partner, an older cop named Jenkins, have been called about a brutal assault. A prostitute was left for dead in a parking lot.

The prostitute, a man who was dressed as a woman, sustained serious injuries, and is now hospitalized. Ballard wants to know who attacked the victim. While her partner Jenkins is supportive, he is less enthusiastic about following up on this particular matter.

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As Ballard is leaving the hospital she hears that police are converging at a Hollywood nightclub where a multiple shooting has taken place. She goes over to the club. An investigation is under way. The officer who had sexually harassed her is in charge of it. She tries to sneak by him.

The identity of the nightclub shooter is unknown. One of the homicide victims was a barmaid. Who did it? Why? Connelly has now set the stage for his story. Ballard wants to investigate an assault on a citizen, the prostitute, who is a low priority for the department. Plus she really wants to be involved in investigating the nightclub killings.

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Ballard is your classic outsider cop. The police are a close-knit group. She is being shunned. Her superiors don’t want her looking into the assault or the homicides. Then there’s her weird lifestyle. Ballard is essentially homeless.

On a typical morning when she gets off duty she retrieves her dog from a friend’s house then heads to the beach. Ballard grew up in Hawaii and she’s a surfer. She’ll take her surfboard out on the ocean and paddle around until she’s exhausted. She uses public showers and sleeps in a tent on the beach with her dog standing guard nearby. She spends weekends with her mother.

Ballard’s relentless pursuit of these evildoers will leave readers breathless. She puts herself in grave danger. What a great character! This promises to be another fabulous series from Michael Connelly.

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