by Robert Crais (Simon and Schuster, 288 pages, $25.94)
Guilt isn’t an emotion that Elvis Cole is used to when it comes to his clients. He’s an insightful private detective whose cases often take him to L.A.’s underbelly but they ultimately end successfully.
The apparent suicide of a man changes Cole’s perception of himself and drives the hard-charging plot of “Chasing Darkness.”
Three years ago, he proved that Lionel Byrd did not murder a prostitute. Now incriminating evidence found with Byrd’s body suggests that not only did he kill that woman but she was the first of seven victims.
Could the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest detective” have been that wrong? How did Byrd, an alcoholic unemployed mechanic, become “a top-of-the-food-chain predator”?
Crais’ 12th Elvis Cole tale (and his 15th novel) is one of his most plot-driven. From its opening scenes as a brush fire threatens another L.A. neighborhood to its tense finale, “Chasing Darkness” never lags.
Nor does Crais’ skill at character development waver. He continues to delve beneath Cole’s smart-mouth persona and draw out more of Joe Pike, his enigmatic partner.
Crais also effectively draws in recurring supporting characters to enhance the plot, such as former bomb expert Carol Starkey (Demolition Angel) and forensics expert John Chen, whose paranoia is trumped only by his greed.
As usual, Crais shines in his vivid re-creation of L.A. “with the scent of spider lilies kissing the air” as his characters are chasing darkness.