In Robert Crais’s 12th Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novel (after The Watchman, May/June 2007), set in a gritty Los Angeles, Elvis Cole is filled with self-doubt.
The Story: PI Elvis Cole rarely makes mistakes—but when he does, they’re often fatal. During a fire in Laurel Canyon, the police discover the body of Lionel Byrd. His death, ostensibly a suicide, brings Cole back a few years earlier when, working for Byrd’s attorney, he helped clear Byrd of a murder charge. Cole now thinks he could have been mistaken: Byrd—who was discovered with photos of seven murdered women—may have committed serial killings before and after his acquittal. Soon, Cole starts to uncover new evidence about the three-year-old case that suggests that Byrd’s death may not have been a suicide but a vast political cover-up.
Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0743281640
"The offbeat sensibility of Fletch meets the graphic violence of L.A. Confidential. Crais maintains the classic crime-noir staples—damsels in distress, double crosses, climactic gunfights—that kicked off the Elvis Cole series back in 1987." Paul Katz
Los Angeles Times
"The action mostly swerves around a crowded Los Angeles that’s as precisely charted as a Thomas Guide. And Crais is as meticulous in describing the tasks performed by all kinds of people involved in crime work, including coroner investigators, lawyers, federal agents and police officers." Donna Rifkind
"It is a fine mystery novel, with a tightly-bound plot and a typically compelling narrative and Crais’ easy, seductive style. … In some ways it felt like after a marathon stint of heavily demanding and emotional Cole and Pike books, Crais felt like it was time to pause for breath, to give the characters and the readers, and perhaps himself, something of a break."
Reviewing the Evidence
"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." Maddy Van Hertbruggen
"I don’t put Crais in the first rank of today’s crime writers, because I don’t think his work has the extra dimension that distinguishes the very best of the genre: Connelly’s characterization of Harry Bosch, for example, or the portrait of black Washington in George Pelecanos’s novels. But I would include Crais, along with Lee Childs, T. Jefferson Parker and numerous others, in the next rank—writers whose books are almost always intelligent, expertly written and a pleasure to read." Patrick Anderson
Elvis Cole has been around for more than 20 years, and he has aged like fine wine. Chasing Darkness contains the classic crime elements that have made Crais’s series so popular, but the novel seems, as a few critics commented, more like a straightforward crime thriller this time around. Material Witness felt that the novel was perhaps less psychologically intense than previous installments, but nonetheless still as compelling in its exploration of crime and backroom politics. A tight, plausible plot and a wholly unexpected ending kept critics turning the pages. In sum, "[t]he Cole books are first-rate entertainment. If you don’t know them, this one is a good starting point" (Washington Post).