Crais, Robert. Chasing Darkness.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Crais is one of the more reliable writers of crime fiction around, both in his handful of independent novels and in the sixteen books featuring Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole and his friend and partner, Joe Pike. Cole is a professional, mostly doing work for attorneys, much of it very routine, but that’s what pays the bills.

Three years ago, though, he took an assignment from the defense attorney for accused serial killer Lionel Byrd, to try to find an alibi for the time of a murder — and he found a convincing one, and the prosecutor dropped the charges, and the police released Byrd.

Now Byrd, living under a pseudonym, has apparently committed suicide with an album in his lap of photos of his seven victims — the last two of them since his release. The cops blame Cole for those two, since it was his work that put Byrd on the street again. Cole doesn’t buy it. Now, to save his professional reputation and for his own peace of mind, he’ll have to prove the killer was someone else. And it’s not going to be easy, especially when the whole world seems to be getting in his way.

It’s a nicely constructed mystery with a convoluted but believable plot and well-drawn characters. Carol Starkey is also here, from Demolition Angel — a really nicely done character. Cole is a long way from being Sam Spade, but he’s been in some hairy situations, too. And Pike is always there, lurking darkly in the background.

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