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Posted: February 8, 2014

You really might want to read this novel

Book Review

By Derryll White

Crais, Robert (2008).  Chasing Darkness.

BRInset     “The darkness frightens me, but what it does to us frightens me even more. Maybe this is why I do what I do.  I chase the darkness to make room for the light.” – Elvis Cole

Whenever I pick up an Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel I know that Robert Crais is going to entertain me. Both characters maintain a bachelor-with-privileges lifestyle. Cole lives in the remote Los Angeles canyon area off Mulholland Drive and Pike has an untold number of posh places. Cole is sensitive, a reasoning individual, and kind of hip. Pike is extremely muscular, quiet, reticent and always has Cole’s back through every extreme.  In many ways they represent the ultimate, idealized mano a mano relationship.

‘Belief’ is a word I always encounter in Elvis Cole novels. Elvis and Joe Pike believe totally, unequivocally in each other. Elvis invariably believes the facts to be other than as they are presented. The powers-that-be, with a few exceptions, always believes Elvis to be wrong. And yet he wins through – logically, with guile and muscle and a lot of charm where required – in the end. So ultimately I always believe it will be an entertaining read.

In ‘Chasing Darkness’ Cole lives with a nameless cat who bites, a free and discriminating spirit that he loves. The cat is big and black and has more scars than an Ultimate Fighter after a bad run. Cat exemplifies much of what happens in an Elvis Cole novel. Cole has a few people whose trust he has earned and who will go the extra mile with him, like the cat. He also has a lot of people who hate him, send him murder threats or go out of their way to occlude or block his investigations. That is why he jocularly announces himself as “The World’s Greatest Detective” sometimes.

‘Chasing Darkness’ is an excellent read. Crais leads the reader down false trails, produces surprises that might make sense when seen in context after the fact, and does it all with descriptive writing and crisp dialogue. Even the minor characters are rich in depth and experience. And when you think you have the story all figured out, Crais creates new surprises. I laughed a lot.

I am not going to spoil the story by telling you anything other than “You really might want to read this novel.”

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Excerpts from the novel:

MURDER – The blood spurted from Janice Evansfield’s throat with each beat of her heart, the stream growing weaker as her heart slowly died. The red pool expanded around Sondra Frostokovich as blood dripped from her nose, the metronome drops logging the time of her death. The bubble of blood swelled in Yvonne Bennett’s wound until it burst.  Seeing the images felt like being trapped in a gallery with nightmares spiked to the wall, but I couldn’t believe it. I told myself not to believe it.

PHOTOGRAPHY – ‘A picture isn’t part of the experience [murder] like a more traditional trophy – it’s a composition outside of the experience. The photographer chooses the angle. He chooses what will be in the picture, and what won’t. If the picture is a world, then the photographer is the god of that world.”

LAWYERS – “The law.  I start with a list – names, dates, events, whatever – information on a page, facts without a narrative structure.  My job is to frame those facts with a narrative, you see? A story. The opposing counsel, they have exactly the same facts, and they have to make up a story, too. The facts are the same but the stories are always different. Same facts, two different stories, and whoever tells the best story convinces the jury. I am very good with my stories, Elvis. I can take a list of facts, any facts at all, and create the most wonderful stories.  I do that better than almost anyone.”

PUBLICISTS – “A campaign is a point-in-time event. A political career is an ongoing effort. We manage political careers.”

“Ah.  The wizards behind the curtain.”

“Only if we’re successful. We develop election strategies, but we also advise on public relations and help our clients refine or perfect their political identity.”

derryllwhiteDerryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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