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Literature / The Late Show

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The Late Show is a 2017 mystery novel by Michael Connelly.

Connelly's 31st novel, it introduces a new protagonist: LAPD detective Renee Ballard. Ballard is a young detective who works "the late show"—that is, the night shift—in Hollywood division. Ballard is on the night shift because she filed a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor, Robert Olivas, only for Internal Affairs to rule that her complaint was meritless. She is left working punishing hours, and she's never able to close any cases because her cases are always given to a day shift detective.

Ballard and her partner John Jenkins are at a hospital investigating an assault case when a woman is brought into the ER with a gunshot wound. The victim promptly dies. It turns out that she was a waitress at a nightclub called The Dancers, and is the fifth victim of a shooting that has left four others dead at the nightclub. Ballard promptly leaps at the chance to insert herself into a big murder case, and winds up entangled in a dark and twisted mystery.


Not to be confused with either incarnation of a CBS late-night talk show.

Tropes present in this book:

  • Alliterative Name: Thomas Trent and his ex-wife Beatrice Beaupre.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Thomas Trent kidnaps Renee and ties her naked to a chair in his basement. She manages to escape after Trent leaves to do the same to his ex-wife.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: The hack doctor who helped Thomas Trent to exaggerate injuries for a frivolous lawsuit.
  • Bait-and-Switch: An interesting meta case. Ballard has driven to her grandmother's house and it looks like we may be in for a breather chapter because she's carefully getting her surfboard ready for the next day, lovingly describing the process of cleaning it and waxing it when suddenly, she's attacked from behind and all of that plan goes right out the window.
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  • Bench Breaker: Ballard starts her escape from being Bound and Gagged to a chair by stretching and breaking the zip ties on her wrists, but ends up breaking the chair to free her legs. This gives her a nice sharp splinter to arm herself with when Trent returns.
  • Blackmail: Ballard keeps her job by blackmailing the investigator into her use of force because he illegally slipped details to a reporter to paint her in a bad light so she could be fired.
  • Bound and Gagged: Ballard wakes up like this (and, for good measure, also naked) after being grabbed, knocked out, and drugged by Trent.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The broom handle that keeps the sliding door from opening at the upside-down house.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Ballard's old partner, Ken Chastain, is described as the son of an LAPD cop who was killed in the line of duty. This is a reference to John Chastain, who was an antagonist to Harry Bosch in the early Connelly novels and who was killed off at the end of Angels Flight.
    • Carmen Hinojos, the LAPD shrink who gave therapy to Harry Bosch in The Last Coyote and to his daughter Maddie in 9 Dragons, pops up again, when Ballard has to go to the Behavioral Science Unit after she kills a bad guy.
    • Beatrice Beaupre, AKA Shaquilla Shackles, was mentioned in The Lincoln Lawyer by Mickey Haller when questioning a witness about his history as a prostitution customer.
  • Cowboy Cop: Ballard, starting right off the bat when she inserts herself into the nightclub shooting investigation by stealing Cynthia Haddel's property from the crime scene. She really steps it up when she uses her dead partner's password to hack into the computer containing the nightclub shooting files. Since Ballard is basically the successor to ultimate Cowboy Cop Harry Bosch, this is only appropriate.
  • Crazy-Prepared: How Chastain manages to bring the Dirty Cop down despite being his last victim. See also Properly Paranoid.
  • Dirty Cop: One of Michael Connelly's favorite tropes. This time it's Detective Carr, who was a dirty cop, and shot up the nightclub when he realized that one of the hoodlums he was with was wearing a wire.
  • Due to the Dead: Ballard is bothered by the indignity murder victim Cynthia Haddel left dead on a gurney with a breathing device still stuck in her throat. She's about to take it out when she's interrupted by a doctor.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the first chapter Ballard and Jenkins take a call from a woman whose wallet was stolen and who is reporting fraudulent charges on her credit card. Ballard insists that they take the case themselves, while Jenkins prevails on her to hand it over to the burglary cops, even though it will probably be forgotten. Both their characters are established. Ballard is hard-charging and determined, while Jenkins is exactly the opposite. (Jenkins is a 25-year veteran working the late shift because he has to be home during the day to look after his wife, who is dying of cancer.)
  • Expy Ballard is based on LAPD Detective Mitzi Roberts, who has appeared in two episodes of Bosch.
  • Friends with Benefits: Ballard and Rob Compton, a parole officer, sometimes have casual sex.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Thomas Trent got nearly eight hundred thousand dollars with a frivolous lawsuit where he exaggerated his injuries.
  • Improvised Weapon User/Combat Pragmatist: Ballard makes effective use of a broomstick handle and a broken splinter from the chair she was tied to against Trent.
  • Internal Affairs:
    • The one time IA should make a case, they don't! Detective Ballard's career was wrecked after IA deemed her complaint against Olivas unfounded, due to her partner Chastain backing up Olivas rather than telling the truth.
    • Later, an IA stooge tries to get Ballard fired.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: A different sort. Ballard comes across a bad guy who has "GOOD" and "EVIL" not on his own knuckles, but on the brass knuckles he uses to beat people with.
  • Left Hanging: We never find out exactly how Trent manages to get from Ballard's fake name to her real identity. It's strongly implied to have been done by him pulling the registration on her van, but there are still unanswered questions.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Ballard is a hustling young cop who is on the late shift because she pissed off LAPD bureaucracy; Jenkins is a veteran old cop who's on the night shift because he needs easy duty.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: One of the victims of the nightclub shooting has "one clean bullet wound between his eyebrows."
  • Properly Paranoid: Chastain gets evidence safely to Ballard fearing that the Dirty Cop will get to him. He's right.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Trent. Ballard even describes him as "big evil."
  • Refusal of the Call: When offered a chance to return to RHD, Ballard wants nothing to do with it, preferring to remain on the late show.
  • Sherlock Scan: Chastain already has a clue on who shot up the Dancers before the scene is processed. He has the vital piece of evidence tested by an outside lab to figure out who the murderer was.
  • Shout Out: Ballard notes that The Dancers nightclub is named after a fictional nightclub in Raymond Chandler novel The Long Goodbye.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Chastain stores the evidence from Cynthia Haddel so Renee, the cop who hated him but who he knew was honest, would find his card and find the one piece of evidence to capture the Dancer murderer. This comes out after he is murdered.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Ballard has to kill a bad guy. And even though it was a kill-or-be-killed scenario, she has to do some soul searching afterwards.
    "It didn't matter whether it was justified, she was now a part of the population that knew what it was to take a life."
  • Title Drop: "The late show" is LAPD night shift.
  • A True Story in My Universe: Cynthia Haddel was an extra on the TV series Bosch, which in the Harry Bosch universe is a true crime cop show inspired by the exploits of Detective Bosch.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Ballard investigates three crimes. There's a burglar who's committing credit card fraud with the cards he steals, there's a transgender prostitute who suffers a savage, near-fatal beating, and there's a shooting at a nightclub that kills five people. The three cases don't intersect.
  • What the Hell, Hero??: Ballard gets three of these over the course of the book. One is from a senior patrolman for calling them out on a wild goose chase so she can get a look at Trent's house. One is from Murphy, a training officer, who points out that she could been shot if the arrest of the burglar had gone the other way. One from her boyfriend when she blows an arrest and gets him in trouble with his Federal contacts by looking for a fake dog and being seen by the fugitive who takes off. She does not take these criticisms well.


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