cover image Chain of Evidence

Chain of Evidence

Ridley Pearson. Hyperion Books, $22.45 (348pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-6172-9

Someone is apparently staging fake suicides in Hartford, Conn. The dead are lowlifes (a child molester, a wife beater, etc.), and, to HPD Detective Joe Dartelli, their fates are eerily reminiscent of a ``suicide'' he treated strictly by the book three years back in order to protect his mentor, forensic specialist Walter Zeller, who probably staged the death of the serial rapist who killed his wife. Though Zeller is retired and presumably out West, the cases mount, and Dartelli finds himself closing in on his old friend. Just as Dartelli tracks down his prey, however, Pearson's (No Witnesses) new novel takes a dizzying turn that sends it careening into Robin Cook territory. But believable plotting has never been Pearson's strongest suit. Wild plot turns are a predictable hallmark of his work, as are his generic, if appealing, characters, of whom Dartelli is typical: an angst-ridden cop brooding about urban and personal troubles (though his tentative affair with another middle-aged cop adds an appealing note). What Pearson does better than any other current thriller writer is forensic detail, and the plot line here is strewn with forensic clues and puzzles that are as fascinating as any he has created since his classic Undercurrents, with the latest in computer forensic analysis offering added flourish. Featuring bright local color, sound pacing, warm-blooded, if familiar, characters and those fabulous forensic deductions, this stands as one of the best novels yet by this author, the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler Fulbright at Oxford University. $250,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Oct.)