Some Choose Darkness (Rory Moore and Lane Phillips #1), by Charlie Donlea

Eight stars

After recently discovering the work of Charlie Donlea, I wanted to come back to explore more of his novels. A writer who not only knows his stuff, but can inject a significant chill to stories, Donlea captured my attention once more with a serial killer and a unique forensic approach to solving crime. Literally piecing things together one bit at a time, Rory Moore provides the reader an approach to crime solution that will have them re-examining every page of the book while the story progresses. Donlea’s storytelling is nothing short of brilliant in this piece, the first of what appears to be a duology, with perhaps more to come?

Crime is a messy business and things are easily overlooked, as Rory Moore knows all too well. A forensic reconstructionist, Rory examines crime scenes when the police are out of leads and tries to see things that others have missed. Her work is priceless to the Chicago PD, particularly when the heat is on to find a killer.

After an alarming call forces her to return to her father’s law office to settle his affairs, Rory is not thinking straight. What follows is an jarring phone call that jolts her out of her melancholia and forces Rory to confront a case the elder Moore had on his blotter years ago. One that she wants nothing to do with, given the chance to pass it along.

The summer of 1979 saw Chicago hit with a number of missing women. With no forensics at the scenes and no bodies left behind, police were baffled and could only wonder what sort of maniac they had on their hands. Dubbed, The Thief, the police could only wait and hope that no more women turned up missing. When a mysterious package arrived with clues that could help, the police leapt to speak with the sender, one Angela Mitchell. However, she, too, went missing before anyone could try to better understand her unique approach to the crimes and ideas about who The Thief might be.

Forty years later, Rory realises that she is on the hook to represent The Thief, who is being paroled for Angela’s murder. It seems a determined DA was able to at least pin that on him, but there was no body. With a judge ready to clear this case from his docket, he appoints Rory as the parolee’s trustee. When Rory meets her client, he insists that he is innocent of Angela’s murder and begs her to take the case to prove his innocence. If ever there was a crime reconstruction that would push the limits of Rory’s abilities, this could be one.

While Rory begins her reconstruction work, she turns to her lover, criminal psychologist and former consultant with the FBI, Lane Phillips. He has an algorithm that, while not entirely proven in court, has shown how to track killing sprees with a number of data points. While Rory uses it to plot The Thief’s actions, she discovers that there is another killer committing similar murders. Past and present collide as Rory continues her work, which might open things up and prove not only The Thief’s innocence, but the presence of a more deceptive killer who has yet to be identified. This chilling revelation only goes to prove what Lane Phillips has always believed, some choose darkness! Donlea dazzles in this crime thriller with so many dark nuances. Perfect for those who want a new approach to crime forensics and the criminal mind!

Charlie Donlea has a wonderful way of luring the reader in, perhaps like his central antagonist, sending them on an eerie adventure without a clear path. A sturdy narrative provides the reader some direction, but there are so many twists that one cannot rely on a linear reading adventure. Strong characters with wonderful backstories helped add something to the story I highly enjoyed. Those who read my reviews regularly will know I am always looking for unique forensic approaches to criminal investigation, something that Rory Moore offers as a reconstructionist. There are also plenty of plot twists throughout, which gives the reader a sense of surprise and prevents a quick ability to forecast what is to come. Donlea does that effectively, while adding layers of chilling revelation, flavouring the larger story. I enjoyed this one and cannot wait to read the sequel, in hopes of learning even more about story Moore and Lane Phillips.

Kudos, Mr. Donlea, for another great piece. Eerie is an understatement.