Michael Connelly has years of experience writing detective stories, having great success with his Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller books, series that feature tough male protagonists. The author’s newest book, titled The Late Show, features a woman protagonist, which I found to be intriguing. Why choose to write a female character when your male detectives have been so successful? I picked it up to find out. In this series opener, we meet Renee Ballard, an LAPD detective who works “the late show.” Detectives who work this late night shift do not actually work the cases they investigate each night. Rather, they pass along the case files to daytime detectives who will follow through and hopefully solve them. Yet Renee can’t let go of two of her current nightly cases–one involving the beating of a transgender prostitute, and the other involving the shooting of a young waitress. As she doggedly pursues these cases, we get a better idea of how she came to be relegated to the late show in the first place. We also learn more about her personal life as we follow her in her off hours. This being a murder mystery, Renee, of course, solves the crimes. As a female reader of this book, I was dismayed to see the choices the author made in creating this female character. While Renee has some trauma from her past that she is clearly still dealing with, her lifestyle choices would be hard to justify in a male protagonist. For a female, I found these choices to be completely unbelievable. When Renee suffers injury on the job, again, how the police department and how Renee herself handles it seemed completely unbelievable to me.
The Late Show was a bestseller, and will certainly resonant with Michael Connelly fans. I liked the book well enough to read book 2 when it comes out. But I will read it with the hope that the author lets Renee be less of a Harry Bosch knock-off, and more of a real, modern day woman.