With Harry fast approaching permanent out of service, there's a new character gunning for Harry Bosch fans. Meet new LAPD detective Howard Drew. Like Bosch, Drew is a murder cop who speaks for the dead.
In this June 13, 2019, Los Angeles Times article, Harry Bosch fans like me got the news we've all been dreading for a while now. From author Michael Connelly's own lips we've learned Harry is on the way out. "I write in real time. My characters age and Bosch is aging out," Connelly told the Times. "Hopefully, I'm gonna be writing longer than Bosch is gonna be detecting, so it was kind of like
looking for a new protagonist to carry on."
Bosch will pass the torch to Renee Ballard, the new protagonist. Ballard, a female Hollywood Division detective, exiled from the elite Robbery-Homicide Division shares many of Bosch's character traits including a dogged dedication to the job and willingness to color outside the lines when department bullshit gets in her way when she's working a case.
Connelly fans first met Ballard in Connelly's The Late Show (2017), novel where the veteran detective is marooned on the graveyard shift in Hollywood after she accuses a supervisor at RHD of forcing himself on her. She next appeared in the twenty-first Bosch novel, Dark Sacred Night (2018), where she and Bosch teamed up to solve a case. She and Harry will team up again on a murder case in the next Bosch novel, The Night Fire (2019), which is coming this October.
The inspiration behind the Ballard character is Mitzi Roberts, a real-life LAPD detective Connelly knows personally. Roberts has been one of the LAPD detectives Connolly has relied on as a confidant and advisor to help make sure he gets things right in the novels.
As the article in the Times notes, Michael Connelly remains tight-lipped when it comes to specific details about Bosch's future. But, the truth is, Harry has reached a chronological age now where realistically his days as a murder investigator and detective are numbered. But, from the quotes Connelly gave the Times, it seems clear Renee Ballard is Connelly's choice as his future featured protagonist standard bearer.
Personally, I love the Renee Ballard character. She is believable as a hard-nosed police detective who closes cases while retaining her feminine side. There is plenty for police procedural fans to like about her.
Ballard's ascent as Bosch's heir apparent comes at a time when the representation of strong female characters in popular culture has become a focal point for authors and screenwriters. Female characters are no longer relegated to being only victims or damsels in distress in crime fiction novels. Instead, women protagonists have become increasingly popular in suspense and thriller genres taking over roles reserved almost exclusively in the past for white males.
I champion this, having a series of my own featuring a strong female protagonist. It's no surprise then that an author of Michael Connelly's stature doesn't intend to be left on the wrong side of this important cultural change. Still, there is the other side of the coin that must be considered when it comes to Harry Bosch.
I think I can speak for legions of other Michael Connelly fans when I say Harry Bosch is the heart and soul of Connelly's franchise. Without Harry, I think the series could have been pretty average. While Ballard is a worthy and welcome new addition, she will never replace Bosch. For that reason, I believe when Harry Bosch is finished as a character it will leave a void, a void that needs to be filled.
Like many Michael Connelly fans, I've read all his books and now wait impatiently for an entire year to pass to get the next one. I have a handful of other crime fiction authors I read devotedly besides Connelly. But, I'm still doing the same thing, waiting a full twelve months between books. That's the thing I hate most about traditional publishing. The process from manuscript to publishing is just too damn slow. Frankly, I think it's the eighth wonder of the world that traditional publishing even still exists in the era of microwave ovens and fast food. Do you know anyone who actually likes waiting for anything? I mention this because after reading the last Bosch novel, I searched the Internet for "authors like Michael Connelly." I found several lists. I sampled a good many books. Guess what? I didn't find anyone "like Michael Connelly." Not really. The biggest reason? I found no other character like Harry Bosch. No one remotely close. Maybe that says something. Maybe someone needs to create a character in the Harry Bosch mold.
Nature hates a vacuum, so let's fill it. Enter Howard Drew, known to his close friends and acquaintances as Howie. Like Bosch, Drew is an LAPD homicide detective. Unlike Bosch, he is young at twenty-nine, just getting started in the murder investigation racket with his whole career ahead of him.
Drew is a Navy veteran with four years in patrol at Van Nuys under his belt along and another year as a burglary detective. Drew applies for and gets accepted for a slot at West Bureau homicide where he is paired with veteran D3 homicide detective Stella Ruiz.
The first novel in the Howard Drew series, The Girl in the Picture, is already in development. It's the story of Drew's first murder case. An early morning jogger discovers the hideously violated and disfigured body of a young woman a killer has dumped and posed in the Hollywood hills. Drew and Ruiz catch the case. Because the gruesome crime scene includes a few similarities to the notorious unsolved 1947 Black Dahlia murder, it creates a nationwide media firestorm. To Drew's dismay, thanks to the keen media interest the LAPD bureaucracy pulls the case from West Bureau and hands it over to the elite RHD Homicide Special Section. The RHD suits soon learn the victim was likely a prostitute. With few clues and even the identity of the nobody victim unknown, the case quickly goes cold. When the media's interest lags, the file gathers dust. This doesn't sit well with Drew, who already takes seriously a murder cop's sacred duty to speak for the dead. He's also confident an unknown serial killer is at work in the City of Angels who must be stopped. He goes to work off the books to learn the woman's identity, find the intersect between the victim and the monster who killed her, and to bring him to justice. Whatever it takes.
Drew may not be Bosch, but give him time. If you like me are a Harry Bosch fan already mourning his end even before the final curtain falls, look for The Girl in the Picture, coming November 2019. It's the first in a brand new series that Bosch fans are sure to love.