In “Deep Into the Dark,” a series opener by P.J. Tracy, readers are introduced to LAPD detective Maggie Nolan and an army veteran recently returned from Afghanistan with PTSD, Sam Easton.
Characters ostensibly like Easton are a dime and dozen in thriller-lit, on the page and screen; ex-soldiers on missions of retribution, leaving swaths of bodies behind them. Tracy’s interpretation is more nuanced; more human than trope, though obviously his military training comes into play in the novel’s climactic stages.
Here, Easton is falsely accused of two murders: his estranged wife’s, and the boyfriend of Melody Traeger, one of his colleagues at the Pearl Bar; an establishment frequented by Hollywood hotshots. Detective Nolan isn’t as convinced of Sam’s guilt as her partner, Remy Beaudreau, who thinks Maggie is prejudiced by her brother’s experiences as a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. She’s a talented investigator, but I never felt any sort of personal connection to her, and if she’s leading this brand new series, I hope future instalments add texture and complexity.
Bubbling below the surface of his A-plot is a secondary thread involving a serial killer. While it’s smartly interwoven into proceedings, it’s perhaps one element too many. Its resolution felt more like an addendum, when the core storyline had already satisfyingly concluded in a brilliant action set-piece. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment, but it didn’t exactly add anything either.
P.J. Tracy ― a pseudonym for mother-daughter writing team Patricia and Traci Lambrecht, the latter of whom now writes under the pen name alone ― is a seasoned pro, her prose clean and visual, and “Deep Into the Dark” is as smoothly engineered and as tightly plotted a mystery as you’ll read this year.
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 12th January 2021
Publisher: Tor Books