Compelling story invites reflection on our changing times
By Derryll White
Connelly, Michael (2021). The Dark Hours.
Michael Connelly is so good at this type of story – police procedural plus personal witness. He brings back two very strong characters, Renée Ballard and Hieronymus Bosch, that have years of history behind them. Connelly’s calling card is the insightful way he introduces politics and corporate disinterest into all his stories.
Here, the pandemic and budget cutbacks loom large, as does the changing face of police departments. Bewildered and narrow “real” men are forced to confront the changing roles of female police officers and gender-specific assaults such as rape.
The author is great on detail, the many small things that work to make the story line stronger and more interesting. Michael Connelly really is a master of his craft. ‘The Dark Hours’ in Connelly’s thirty-seventh novel and it draws on all of the past work to make both central characters even more appealing.
Connelly pushes hard here into the 21st Century. The sub-text of ‘The Dark Hours’ is that things are wrong in America. The pandemic has shut down many personal outlets for relief and renewal, while anger and hatred build. Men increasingly resent women and organizations resent change. The Los Angeles Police Department is both a misogynistic old-boys’ club and an organization that is not supporting those members who continue to risk all in the pursuit of citizen protection and justice. Renée Ballard becomes the locus for all that resentment and anger.
The author has done a good job here telling a compelling story that invites the reader to reflect on our changing neo-conservative times.
Excerpts from the novel:
BUDGET CUTBACKS – But Ballard knew that it could also be that this was the new LAPD – 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 not to engender a complaint or controversy.
PANDEMIC – Ballard had been looking forward to the day when the interior of the shop would reopen post-pandemic and she could go in and sit at a table. She always did good work in coffee shops. It had been one of the things she missed most in the last year.
CHANGE – “You want me to come back?” she asked.
“I do. The department needs to change. To do that, it has to change from within. How can we accomplish that if the good people who can make change choose to leave?”
“I don’t think the department wants someone like me. And I don’t think the department wants to change.”
“It doesn’t matter what the department wants, Detective Ballard. If an organization doesn’t change, it dies. And that’s why I want you back. I need you to help bring the change.”
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.