Chelsea Cain fills her new novel with dark atmosphere, a quick-thinking, likable hero, fast-moving narrative and plenty of wit.
Unfortunately, she also uses an absurd motive and means for her killer that, to some extent, ruin her good work.
"The Night Season" is set in a rainy Portland, Ore., where dark clouds hover and torrential rains cause the Willamette River to draw ever closer to flood stage. A skeleton from a long-ago flood turns up (by coincidence) just before a string of dead bodies begins appearing. Did these new victims drown? A careful medical examiner notices a tiny dot on their palms that leads him to a different - and highly unlikely - conclusion, and police detective Archie Sheridan begins to search for a serial killer.
"The Night Season" makes many references to an earlier case in which Sheridan was almost killed, and which left him a psychological wreck. Unfortunately, readers not familiar with Cain's earlier Archie Sheridan novels may feel they're missing the inside story on what caused his suffering, and why he and spunky reporter Susan Ward have such a close relationship.
Ward gets access to police investigations that other reporters can only dream about, but her endless scoops put her in danger.
Cain is a talented writer, and it's a shame she settled on a weak motive and far-fetched method of murder. "The Night Season" is fun, like eating cotton candy, but readers may crave something more substantial.