Book review: Elvis Cole returns in 11th novel

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Little in life is as satisfying as a new Elvis Cole novel. Each installment of Robert Crais' 20-year-old series is like meeting a good friend for lunch who you haven't seen in a long time.

In "Chasing Darkness," a tight, twisting tale that's the 11th in the series about the Los Angeles private investigator, Cole is trying to prove he wasn't wrong after police accuse him of helping free a serial killer.

They've found the body of a two-bit slime ball named Lionel Byrd, who apparently committed suicide while looking at a photo album containing graphic death scene photos of seven women. The problem is Cole helped exonerate Byrd in the murder of one of the women.

Cole's adversaries are mostly members of the LAPD, who too quickly pin the murders on Byrd and might be working to cover up the crimes of a politician.

Really, though, what the book is about is irrelevant. The joy of reading Crais' work isn't in the plotting and pacing, which are always good. The best moments come in Cole's simple descriptions of people and places.

Crais has managed to keep his series fresh through the years with an evolving cast of side characters and they're all here. But, as usual, the best moments are when Cole is working with taciturn partner Joe Pike, who took his turn in the starring role in last year's "The Watchman."

Two people couldn't be more different and the pages that contain their mostly one-sided back-and-forth are worth the price of admission alone.

This installment is not the best place for new readers to pick up Cole. They should turn to the series debut, "The Monkey's Raincoat." But for fans and even casual readers who have spent a little time with Cole, "Chasing Darkness" is a bright spot in a dull summer book season.

— AP

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