Deep Into the Dark is P.J. Tracy’s first volume in a new series following LAPD detective Margaret Nolan. It is more on the thriller side of the equation than the traditional mystery, with a quick moving plot and a cast of colorful characters.
This volume represents the first in a new series that half of P.J. Tracy, Traci Lambrecht, is writing without her late mother Patricia (P.J.) Lambrecht, who represented the other half of the equation in that pen name. As a result reader should not be surprised by any style shifts, although by the same token the work does not feel totally alien.
Detective Nolan is a determined cop, fit and intelligent and better than many (including her partner) at avoiding a quick solution. She works on a pair of murders with an eye to understanding that they might be related to a serial killer called the monster, although a few details seem noticeably out of place. She is also navigating the loss of her brother in combat some time ago, making her especially sympathetic to a person of interest in the case who is also a combat veteran.
Two of our leads are Sam and Melody, each of whom faces the loss of someone fairly close to them quite early in the book. Sam is a scarred military veteran, both physically and mentally. He has noticeable facial scarring, as well as a number of different symptoms to go with his PTSD including blackouts and hallucinations of dead loved ones. Sam also knows that his separation from his wife isn’t something he wants, but he also feels guilty for laying any problems on her. She has a past — as a recovering addict with an abusive boyfriend — that she would rather forget.
This is a volume that moves quickly, and not just due to short chapters. In addition to frequently switching points of view, the story uses third person limited to great effect. Detective Nolan (to a lesser extent her partner and the police in general), Sam, and Melody, represent the overwhelming bulk in terms of the points of view. Fortunately the differences between these people are apparent and character voice remains far enough apart to prevent confusion in the reader. In addition new complications appear with a regularity only a seasoned author could reliably supply.
As a multilayered thriller, it is perhaps appropriate that new possibilities and suspects present themselves. Even when we know who the killer is, we still don’t know which of the crimes in question they committed and which may have been done by another party. Indeed even in the last few pages new and fascinating questions are raised. Perhaps the only great weakness is that one of the suspects the reader is given early on becomes increasingly obvious, although since this is a thriller mystery, as opposed to merely a mystery, this is a relatively minor concern.
P.J. Tracy is a respected name in the mystery genre, and this volume will only help to enforce that. A new series is appropriate for a new phase in the existence of this pseudonym, and it is certainly a welcome addition to the author’s bag of tricks. Easy to recommend to general readers as well as fans of the author.