Cover image of "The Dark Hours," the fourth Bosch and Ballard novel

Harry Bosch is getting old. Years earlier, he was forced to retire from the LAPD. After a stint with a small police force in the San Fernando Valley, he obtained a P.I. license as a way to continue following up discreetly on the cold cases that eluded him while he was on the job. Though aging, he is far from inactive. And a young cop named Renée Ballard keeps coming to him for help. Now, in The Dark Hours, the fourth Bosch and Ballard novel that dramatizes their growing partnership, Harry and Renée take on what may be their most challenging and perilous cases yet.

A police procedural that reflects today’s reality

Each of the Ballard and Bosch books details a slice of life in the LAPD. The novels dramatize what’s good about today’s urban police, and what’s not. And now, in the months following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a lot’s going bad in the force. “[T]his was the new LAPD,” Ballard muses, “officers stripped of the mandate of proactive enforcement and waiting to be reactive, to hit the streets only when it was requested and required, and only then doing the minimum so as not to engender a complaint or controversy. . . The why-should-we-care disease had infected the whole department.” This is the sad reality that confronts the two brilliant detectives as they pursue two high-profile cases, a tag team of serial rapists and the conspirators behind the murder of a reformed gang-member-turned-businessman.

The Dark Hours (Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch #4) by Michael Connelly (2021) 400 pages ★★★★★ 

Image of Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch in the TV adaptation of Michael Connelly's novels
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch in the Amazon Studios production of the books’ adaptation to television. Renée Ballard hasn’t yet made it to the screen. Image: Chicago Tribune

Rapists and the conspirators behind a murder

Renée’s assigned case involves the Midnight Men, a pair of rapists who have assaulted at least three women in Los Angeles. She’s teamed up with a disillusioned female cop who abandons her for a long weekend out of town with her boyfriend. But Renée is still on the “late show,” working as an on-call detective from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am in the Hollywood Division. Which means she must respond to any new case that crops up at night—but can’t follow up, because anything interesting is turned over to the detectives working days. In Renée’s increasingly dangerous pursuit of the Midnight Men, Harry gives a little advice and plays backup.

But the murder case involves them both so long as Renée can persuade her lieutenant not to turn it over to the day shift. Javier Raffa, the owner of an auto repair shop and salvage yard, is murdered on New Year’s Eve. He had long since bought his way out of the Las Palmas 13 street gang, raising suspicion that his murder represents long-delayed revenge. Still, the cops on the scene declare it an accident, because, consistent with an age-old custom, men with guns had fired into the air at midnight. A stray bullet had fallen and killed Raffa, they insist. But Renée learns the truth. And, together with Harry, she works against the forces of hostility, indifference, and sloth that make it difficult for them to resolve the case. Someone higher up in the force doesn’t want them to uncover the truth about the conspirators behind Raffa’s murder.

A growing partnership

As the two cases speedily wind their way toward resolution, the teamwork between Bosch and Ballard flowers. It’s clear that each represents an answer to the other’s needs. For Bosch, Ballard represents a strong and resourceful investigator who can tap into the considerable resources of the LAPD. For Ballard, Bosch brings a knowledge of the cold cases that provide the key to solving her own cases. But there’s something more. “Bosch had always been a sort of homicide guru to Ballard. . . He was her go-to-guy and she trusted him.”

About the author

Image of Michael Connelly, author of the Bosch and Ballard novels

As Wikipedia notes, Michael Connelly (1956-) “is the bestselling author of 36 novels and one work of non-fiction, with over 74 million copies of his books sold worldwide and translated into 40 languages . . . [He] has won nearly every major award given to mystery writers.” Most of the novels feature Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. A few center on the “Lincoln Lawyer” Mickey Haller. Renee Ballard emerges as the lead in the four most recent novels, as Harry is aging and now retired from the LAPD.

I’ve also reviewed the first three of the Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch novels:

And I’ve reviewed many of the Harry Bosch novels. You can find them by typing his name in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the Home Page on this site.

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