She believed her was her man, and there was nothing quite like that moment of knowing. It was the Holy Grail of detective work. It had nothing to do with evidence or legal procedure or probable cause. It was just knowing it in your gut. Nothing in her life beat it. It had been a long time coming to her on the late show but now she felt it and she knew deep down it was the reason she would never quit, no matter where they put her or what they said about her.
I had to turn in my copy of Michael Connelly’s The Late Show before I could begin this review because it had holds on it and was OVERDUE – yes, sometimes when you’re waiting on a book from the library it’s your friendly librarian who is stopping up the works! (I only let it go a few days past due, in my defense. 🙂 ) Anyway, it was terrific, as most of Connelly’s books are. There’s something about his books that just soothe my itch for crime thrillers, and every time he comes out with a new one I am SO THERE.
This one is the start of a new series, apparently, introducing a new detective, Renée Ballard. She’s an LAPD detective on “the late show,” which is what they call the overnight shift, just there to take reports and interview witnesses. Because of that, she has to turn over investigations to the day shift, and never gets to follow a case through to completion. It’s a demotion in her eyes – she was a regular day time detective before she brought allegations of sexual harassment against her supervisor. (This part did feel a little under explained to me – it was a “he said/she said” case with no corroboration from anyone else, but I wondered why she wasn’t just moved to another division elsewhere. But I digress.) You can feel her frustration from the first scenes. There are two cases that happen the same night that are unrelated but Renée can’t seem to let go of. One involves a brutal, near-deadly beating of a transgendered prostitute names Ramona; the other, a shooting at a night-club that killed five people, two of whom seem to be innocent bystanders. As Ballard gets deeper into her (mostly unsanctioned) investigations, she gets closer and closer to what she calls “Big Evil” in the first case, and indications in the second that seem to point to one of LAPD’s own as the murderer.
I liked Ballard a lot. Her back story was interesting (Hawaiian heritage, absentee mother, father who died in a surfing accident while she watched helplessly.) She has a dog named Lola which she rescued from a homeless person and who is fiercely protective of her. She paddle boards when she needs to relax or think over the direction of her case, and she will camp out on the beach when she needs sleep. One thing I kept pondering again and again was, “When does this woman sleep?” Another was, “Does she have a house?” It wasn’t until later in the book that we’re told that her permanent address with the Force is her grandmother’s house, but she only stays there every couple of weeks to do laundry, eat a home cooked meal, and visit. So she’s a strong, independent character, but there are definitely cracks beneath the surface. I’ll be interested to see how she develops in future installments! 4 stars.
Deborah wrapped herself in her blanket. Her breeches had dried, and her waistcoat too. Only her shirt and the binding beneath remained damp. She lay down and closed her eyes, feeking the constriction around her chest like a snake coiled about her. I am Robert Shurtliff, she told herself. She wanted to measure up to these men, to find her place among them. Lord God, she prayed silently. Deliver me through this trial. Grant me faith and strength.
Revolutionary was a book I probably wouldn’t have read on my own. I like historical fiction when I read it but it’s not an automatic go-to genre for me. It was our book group pick last month, and I’m glad that it was chosen. Based on Deborah Sampson, a real life woman who dressed as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War, it’s a moving and detailed work of historical fiction with a.
In the final years of the Revolutionary War, Samson (as Myers, a female-to-male transgendered author chooses to call her – turns out he is a distant relative of the real-life heroine) is an unmarried young woman who has fairly recently become free of her indentured servitude. (Her family life was troubled and they couldn’t afford to take care of her, so she was given away to work as an indentured servant.) Her community sees her single status as a threat; her only friend is a fellow servant named Jennie. Having been once discovered trying to pass as a man when she went to go register to serve in the war, a violent attack by a local man has her fleeing the life that she knows in search of freedom and a new identity. Jennie cuts her hair for her and steals some clothing from her master, and Deborah binds her breasts and leaves in the night, without a real plan but convinced that she’ll be put in jail for what she’s done to her attacker in retaliation.
What follows is an interesting, immersive account of regimental life as Deborah fits in with the rest of the young men (and by this point in the war, some of them are very young, which benefits the whisker-less Deborah.) How she manages to keep her identity secret is interesting and occasionally requires a lucky break. But she is stronger mentally and physically then she ever knew, and relishes her newfound freedom to move and live as she pleases even within the restrictions of military life.
I enjoyed this so much more than I anticipated, and was deeply moved by an unexpected turn of the plot 2/3 of the way through. About 100 pages in Deborah begins to be called Robert in the narrative, the name she has adopted for her new life. And then again towards the end, it shifts back to Deborah, but this feels entirely seamless and organic with the story. She continues to correspond as Robert with Jennie back home, a nice narrative strategy. The reader is made aware of how stifling and hopeless the conditions of an unmarried woman back in the late 18th century were, relegated to a life of drudgery, constantly open to innuendo and the possibility physical and sexual abuse. I also learned a lot about the late stages of the war and daily life of a soldier. I thought there were a few instances where the emotional impact of events wasn’t fully explored – for instance, the rape at the beginning didn’t seem to be fully dealt with and I wondered if there was another way Myers could have sent the story in motion. But overall, this was a good read that explored gender identity in a time period in which people perhaps lacked the vocabulary to acknowledge such things. 4 stars.