Robert Crais, in my opinion, is getting to be a better and deeper novelist with each book.
Chasing Darkness is a departure from his recent novels in that he tones down the violence a bit. He’s been prone lately to having his main characters (private eye Elvis Cole and his associate Joe Pike) end up seriously wounded and hospitalized after a harrowing life-or-death battle, but this time it’s all about the mystery and the characters, with the final bloodletting somewhat less comprehensive. And I don’t think he loses anything by that.
The story begins in the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles, during a wildfire evacuation. Policemen sent in to evacuate residents discover a dead man, an apparent suicide, sitting over a photo album containing photographs of female murder victims—photographs that could only have been taken before the police got to the scenes.
Suddenly Elvis Cole is the target of investigation by the police, and threats from one of the victims’ families. Because he worked for the dead man’s lawyer and helped get him acquitted on one of these murders.
Elvis doesn’t like being pushed, and he knows for a fact that the guy couldn’t have committed the murder. So he reopens his investigation. In this he is assisted (off the record) by his police detective friend Carol Starkey, and of course Joe Pike, the best guy in the world to have watching your back.
What he discovers is corruption, depravity and cover-up at the highest levels of city government. And then he gets a surprise, and the whole game changes.
I liked Chasing Darkness a lot. It’s a cerebral, tragic, character-driven story, concentrating on the costs of crime to those who care about the victims.
Recommended for grownups.