Book Review: Dark Sacred Night

The Harry Bosch books have always held a special place in my heart. It was Concrete Blonde which was the book that I think got me back into reading on long plane flights when I was travelling almost every day for work a little over ten years ago. From there, I think I spent time reading every Bosch book and the rest of the Michael Connelly novels as quickly as they came out, often times putting down another book to pick up the most recent. And that is exactly what I did with Dark Sacred Night.

Sure, I am not able to knock a book out on a weekend like I used to be, and I have far fewer train rides to sit down and read, but this was a book I wanted to read and spent some late nights reading it on vacations and at home. This book was the second in the Renee Ballard series and was a crossover with Harry Bosch really continuing the saga / storyline from the previous Bosch book over Daisy and Elizabeth Clayton.

In the previous book Elizabeth Clayton was a secondary story, someone Bosch felt for and tried to and did save from an opiod addiction. At the start of this book, Bosch was working her daughter's murder case as his pet project while he was also working on a cold case involving a gang hit with the San Fernando PD. The stage is set for him to interact with Ballard when he comes into her precinct late at night and she sees him and wonders what he is working on. After Ballard has checked up on who exactly this Bosch is, they start to work the Daisy Clayton case together, sort of a hobby project for Ballard, but a mission for Bosch.

It is in this mission and how it weaves together with the gang hit job that I think the story ends up lacking. To me, the gang hit story ended up feeling like a way to give Bosch some conflict, both with his job and in his personal life. I don't think that storyline was really fleshed out and it seemed to follow along with some traditional tropes: (1) Cop finds source, (2) Source is murdered, (3) Cop finds the leak, (4) Leaker attempts to kill himself, and (5) Gang puts the cop and his family in danger.

Yes, he gets out of that danger. And no, I never really felt that he wouldn't. I never really contemplated him not getting out of it. I guess this could have been the book in which Bosch died and handed the reigns of finding justice for all ("everyone matters or no one matters") to Ballard, but I don't expect that to happen with the TV show in place and more seasons coming even though I know there are plenty of stories still available from the previous novels even without introducing Mickey Hallar.

The Daisy Clayton case is where this book shines, but it is also held back by the fact that Connelly didn't do a good job making you care for Elizabeth or Daisy Clayton. Sure, I have never lost a child so there is no way I would know what Elizabeth Clayton is thinking, but her character didn't resonate with me, especially in this book. Her coming to live with Bosch, sleeping with him, and then leaving abruptly didn't register with me as something I cared about and wanted to see through, so it made the whole storyline more of a whodunit, and that part was especially weak in this book.

Ballard and Bosch went through a standard investigation, but we didn't really get to know the ups and downs of it. We didn't know why they would move a card to the side for follow up, or why they wouldn't. We weren't really with them when they were making moves, and didn't get into their heads. The closest we get into their heads is in the climax of the story. But by then I just wasn't emotionally hooked. Sure both Ballard & Bosch ended up doing a few illegal things to catch the final guy, but then the father-like figure that Ballard has been looking for in Bosch came out and he protected her.

I must say the final hook in the epilogue just seems like the easy way to keep the Harry Bosch character in books and novels, and at the same time sort of diminishes the Renee Ballard character down to a Harry Bosch side kick. I liked her introduction as a full-fledged character in the Harry Bosch Universe, and I hope that doesn't change and she has as much of a "solo career" as Mickey Haller because she's an interesting character and one that can be built up over a whole book series without the crutch of Harry Bosch by her side.

Quick Review: 3 out of 5 stars