Chasing Demons
by Melissa M. Garcia

"I wasn't that scrawny kid anymore. At least not from the outside. People didn't see a scared, hungry kid. I wasn't sure what they saw, but they didn't see that."

Garcia returns to the scene of 2006's Falling Angels, in this gritty sequel about reconciling the past and facing the future. Former homeless teen Luc Actar has returned to Los Angeles and is living with Mattie, the recently divorced wife of his best friend. He has a good job as a newspaper crime reporter. Then, mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his estranged father send him back to neighborhoods he had hoped to never re-enter. The introduction of a teenage half-brother brings new intrigue.

Garcia weaves a compelling, action-packed story that believably depicts the give-and-take relationship between crime reporters and cops. The author's knowledge of Los Angeles and the surrounding area lends great geographical authenticity. Garcia skillfully balances the mystery aspects of the story, as Luc seeks a killer with ties to his father, and relational aspects, as Luc and Mattie head a complex, intertwined cast of characters. Careful plotting keeps the characters' interconnections from becoming unwieldy. The plot itself is relatively straightforward: a break-in, a cover-up and related murders. Depth comes in the richness of the characters, especially Luc, who matures as he navigates new and renewed challenges and relationships. Social issues, including homelessness and mental illness, are thoughtfully and sensitively portrayed. Garcia's skill as a writer, in general, is evident in the crisp dialogue and easy flow of the story that clips along at an enjoyable, highly readable pace. While some threads find closure, Garcia ultimately concludes open-ended, clearly poised for another sequel. Memorable writing and storytelling by an accomplished author.

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