While ruminating over which books to review for this month's column, I happened to glance at the back cover of Daniel Judson's The Darkest Place. In bright yellow letters was an endorsement from mystery writer Robert Crais (a longtime favorite of mine), who ended his blurb with To Mr. Judson I say, Well done, sir.' Similar accolades from G.M. Ford and S.J. Rozan, two more favorites, sealed the deal: I was going to read this book. Simply put, The Darkest Place is one of the most riveting novels I have read in quite some time. It demands to be read in one sitting, and I acceded to that demand. Several young men have been found in the water off Long Island, drowned in the frigid midwinter sea. The first one looked like an accident, or possibly suicide, but by the time the second and third bodies are found, there is little doubt in anyone's mind that a serial killer is at work. The family of one of the boys hires detective Reggie Clay to determine the cause of death; they are devout Catholics, and they want to be able to bury their son without the stigma of possible suicide. Attention quickly focuses on local college professor Deacon Kane, a onetime well-known author who has settled into obscurity in the Hamptons. Kane is a tortured soul; his only son died in an accidental drowning some years before, and Kane has never completely recovered. He is in a no-win affair with a married socialite, and he has more than a passing affection for the bottle. And he can't seem to remember where he was or what he was doing on the nights that the boys met their watery demises. Kane teams up with a detective, a bookseller, a professor and a strange exotic girl to try to prove his innocence; problem is, one or more of them will try equally hard to frame Kane for the crimes. Judson has written a page-turner of the first order, densely populated with dark characters, a couple of begrudging protagonists and a class-act villain. Oh, and the twist? I never saw it coming.

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