Old detectives never die, they just fade away. Ever wonder where Bergerac is now? Or John Nettle’s later incarnation as Barnaby in Midsomer Murders? In some nursing home for ex-coppers, or still out there solving one last case, freelancing their way to the grave? We know Morse suffered a fatal coronary, but what if he were still with us? Would he be filling his days in retirement nosing around Oxford nick, unable to tear himself away from the game?
Michael Connelly’s creation, ex-LAPD detective Harry Bosch, first burst onto the scene back in 1992. More than a quarter of a century on from those heady, cop-on-a-career-roll days, his life has slowly dwindled into something a lot bleaker.
Or has it? At first glance, Harry’s best times are behind him. Pushed into premature semi-retirement after treading on one senior LAPD toe too many, Bosch now works as a part-timer for the San Fernando Police Department. His office is a roughly converted drunk tank – the bars are still on the door and windows – and he is so obviously yesterday’s man it’s a wonder he still has a pass to let him into the building.
But Bosch has still got it. Two investigations are underway simultaneously – the recent execution of a San Fernando gang boss, and a much older cold-case. The gangland execution has the drama; the cold case the human tragedy. It’s no surprise which one Bosch is keener to solve.
Holmes had his Watson; Morse his Lewis. Unlikely crime-fighting duos make for the best fiction and Connelly has come up with a seemingly hopelessly mismatched team in Dark Sacred Night – grizzled, seventies-style moustachioed Harry Bosch, and a woman half his age, LAPD detective Renee Ballard, a loner who lives in a tent on the beach, suffers to be loved (occasionally) by the resident lifeguard there, and works on the so-called ‘Late Show’ – LAPD’s graveyard shift.
Returning from a middle-of-the-night callout to a suspicious death in Beverly Hills (Ballard quickly establishes that the dead homeowner’s cat had a hand, or rather paw, in it) she finds Bosch quietly sifting through old files in her office. She has no idea who he is or how he got there, and very nearly draws her gun on him.
Confusion resolved, Ballard learns that the creaking old cop is trying to solve the half-forgotten Daisy Clayton case of nine years earlier. Daisy was a 15 year old runaway-turned-prostitute whose body was dumped in a trash can. Harry has become so obsessed with solving the cold case that the girl’s mother has moved in to his spare room.
Despite herself, Renee is intrigued and is gradually drawn into the semi-official investigation. And we’re off: Connelly has created a brand new crime-busting partnership and Bosch and Ballard will undoubtedly feature in future novels.
Bleak, shocking, absorbing and genuinely moving, Dark Sacred Night is a terrific read and right up there with Connelly’s best. Enjoy.