Monday, 7 July 2008


I remember talking once in LA with Robert Crais about how many of his books have exceptionally well-chosen titles, and he's done it again with Chasing Darkness, whose titular mascot indicates that this book is a change of pace of sorts for both Crais and for his detective, Elvis Cole.

Let's start with Cole. When a man is found dead, an apparent suicide, he's discovered to possess photographic souvenirs of a number of serial killings, photos only the killer could have taken. Three years before, Elvis had cleared the man when he was arrested as a suspect in one of the killings, and since then, three more women have been killed. Not only are the police hounding Cole, the family of at least one of the victims blames him as well, and wants revenge.

The only thing to do is to investigate, and see where, and if, he went wrong. It's a different thing for Elvis to be feeling he's wrong; he's made mistakes in the course of this excellent series, but by and large his instincts haven't betrayed him, and now he's forced to re-examine those instincts.

That's where this is new territory for Crais as well. He's changed the tone of the series at times by focusing on Joe Pike, but although Pike's tightly-wrapped persona provides a contrast to Elvis' outward flippancy, it also works against probing into the depths of his darkness. Here, Cole's doubts act as a catalyst for what is, for it's first two-thirds, a compelling story. The compulsion fades as it becomes clear Elvis was not wrong, and although the narrative drive remains strong, it also became obvious pretty early where the real killer was hiding.

This is something typical of Crais' books: they often start with mystery and sometimes with doubt, but they usually resolve themselves in action, as befits someone who's a great scriptwriter too. I think it was The Forgotten Man where I pointed this out first (and THAT was a great title too!). Crais' books may pull themselves up just a little short of Michael Connelly's sort of  darkness, but they are no less satisfying for that. And LA has got to be big enough for Bosch, Cole and Pike. Chasing Darkness is Crais at top form, and there aren't many better.

Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
Orion £12.99 ISBN 9780752891590

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