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by Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster, July 2008
288 pages
ISBN: 0743281640

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I've been a fan of Elvis Cole and his associate, Joe Pike, since 1987 when THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT appeared. It's hard to believe that this series is over 20 years old. Of course, the characters have grown and changed; but the essential elements that have made these books so likeable are still there. Elvis may be a little more world weary now, but he still has the Pinocchio clock in his office and he still can't resist the opportunity to make a wisecrack.

As a private investigator, Cole often does work for insurance companies, defense attorneys and the like. Many times he will not even meet the subject of his investigation. That's exactly what happened in the case of Lionel Byrd, whom Cole proved innocent by finding a surveillance video that showed that he couldn't have been at the site of a murder taking place in another part of town. But now Byrd has committed suicide, and lying in front of him is a murder scrapbook with pictures of several women taken at the moment of their deaths. Cole is horrified to think that he may have made an error as far as Byrd was concerned; if he had not cleared Byrd, several subsequent deaths might not have taken place.

Cole's gut tells him that he didn't make a mistake with Byrd, but the evidence has led the LAPD to name Byrd as a serial killer and close the books on the murders of seven women. There's no way that Elvis can sit idly by, especially when his office is trashed and he becomes the object of scorn for his past support of Byrd. As he looks at the seven cases, he finds that two of them are substantially different from the other five. His investigation indicates that the police chief may have had a vested interest in having at least one of the victims eliminated. Chief Marx is a political animal who has had it in for Cole in the past and who appears to be willing to stop at nothing to achieve his professional goals.

CHASING DARKNESS is the 12th book in the series and a solid return to what Crais does so well. I haven't cared for some of the recent books in which he goes deep into the background of some of the characters, e.g., Joe Pike in THE WATCHMAN. Those kinds of books felt contrived to me. I much prefer to read the standard investigative narrative without any gimmicks. The characters are always memorable. Joe Pike has a relatively minimal role in the book, as does criminalist John Chen; Carol Starkey appears in a more expanded role.

Over the years, Crais's talents as a writer have grown. Some of his descriptions of the setting are wonderfully lyrical. In CHASING DARKNESS, he skillfully adds some unexpected twists and turns that turn the story on its ear. DARKNESS is both fast-paced and gripping and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, July 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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