Connelly opens his latest novel with Harry Bosch walking across the soft cemetery grounds, his cane—aiding him during his recovery from a recent knee operation following the events of last year’s Dark Sacred Night—sinking into the grass as he approached the final resting spot of John Jack Thompson.
Back in the day, as a young detective, Bosch was trained by John Jack, who specialized in bringing young investigators along and showing them the ropes. Now, after a long and distinguished career with the LAPD, John Jack is dead—but he left one final case for his former protégé to crack.
Back at Thompson’s house following the funeral, John Jack’s widow instructs Harry to have a look around his office. There, he finds a murder book that Thompson had taken with him when he left the force more than twenty years prior. The cold case in question involves the unsolved murder of ex-con John Hilton, who was shot and killed while sitting in his parked car behind an alleyway known for drugs and trouble. Intrigued, Bosch is ready to get to work, but there’s just one problem. Having retired from the LAPD himself, Harry no longer has access to the files and resources he needs for the job—prompting him to reach out to Detective Renee Ballard for help.
Ballard, who was first introduced as the protagionist in The Late Show before teaming up with Bosch in last year’s novel, is still working the night shift when readers meet back up with her here. Heading up the crime scene of a fire that killed Eddie, a homeless man living out of a tent, Renee suspects foul play. More importantly, she’s perhaps the only officer on scene who seems to care about the dead man, and is genuinely driven to find out what, exactly, happened to him—a trait that is very much in line with Bosch’s own “everybody matters or nobody matters” code of honor.
Agreeing to help Harry on the side, Renee and Bosch once again join forces and begin following leads and mining for clues. But as their investigation gets underway, the duo continuously find themselves wandering down one dead-end after another, before finally catching a break that might link Hilton’s murder to another killer. Still, in the back of Bosch’s mind, one concerning thought lingers. Why did John Jack steal this particular murder book . . . to try and solve it, or to make sure nobody ever could?
The introduction of Renee Ballard has certainly freshened up Bosch’s world, but while lots of things have changed, one thing remains the same: Connelly continues to deliver winner after winner, year in and year out. Harry is still the star, but Ballard continues to hold her own, and perhaps the best compliment of all is that her chapters (Connelly alternates chapters between their POVs) are just as riveting as when the camera stays tight on Bosch. There’s never a feeling or desire to rush through Renee’s pages to get back to Bosch, and as a team, Ballard is definitely in the running for Harry’s best partner, even though their relationship is a tad unconventional and only two book in the making.
Along with Bosch and Ballard, longtime fans will recognize a bunch of other faces too, including Harry’s half-brother, attorney Mickey Haller. One storyline follows Haller as he attempts to defend a man accused of killing a Superior Court judge, and as always, the Lincoln Lawyer steals every scene that he’s in.
Connelly continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest crime writers of all time, and reading one of his books is an experience unlike anything else the genre has to offer. Look for The Night Fire to make everyone’s “Best of” lists at the end of the year . . . right where it belongs.
Author: Michael Connelly
Series: Bosch & Ballard #2 (Bosch #22)
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 9.5/10
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.