cover image The Darkest Game

The Darkest Game

Joseph Schneider. Poisoned Pen, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-7282-4504-1

The murder of Dean Burken, found shot to death at home in Laurel Canyon, drives Schneider’s smart if discursive third outing for Det. Tully Jarsdel of the LAPD (after 2021’s What Waits for You). Since Burken, who managed donations at Pasadena’s Huntington Library, was an abrasive, polarizing figure, Jarsdel—a would-be academic turned homicide detective—has lots of suspects, including Ellery Keating, a Huntington board member. After Keating turns up dead on Catalina Island, Jarsdel gets on the trail of a self-styled band of pirates, a massive real estate deal in Newport Beach, and a 19th-century journal from a California settler that could lead to a gold mine. Assured prose and distinctive characters help compensate for the tenuous through line connecting these disparate elements to Burken’s murder and the many lengthy if astute asides on such topics as the museum business, the city’s Persian population (Jarsdel’s father emigrated from Iran), L.A. history (including, notably, the genocide of the region’s indigenous people), and the moral challenge of police work in general. This flawed but deeply intelligent novel will reward thoughtful readers. Agent: Eve Attermann, WME. (Apr.)