I really enjoyed Less Dead and plan to download the next book in the series. Though I tend to read mostly fantasy, I’m also a fan of noirs that have flawed, interesting female main characters. Some of my favorite mystery authors are JA Konrath, Alan Bradley, Edward Fallon, and Ann Voss Peterson. Laura Elvebak is a worthy addition to this list.
The book begins as many in this genre do, with the victim, Peter Belton. Jade, a runaway wakes up beside this corpse and can’t remember how she got there. Worst, she fears she may have killed him. I found the beginning very well-written, but truly was caught hook, line and sinker when the main character, Niki Alexander is introduced. Niki is a flawed hero, ex-cop who now works as a counselor in a teen shelter, a career she pursued out of a sense of guilt and a driving need to help. Niki has the perfect character cocktail of vulnerability, toughness, focus, and a deep caring for others. The minor characters are diverse and well-defined, and add much to the story. I was especially curious about Rube and Jade. I hope they both return in the sequel. The characters are complex and believable.
The dead bodies pile up, all of them runaways except for Peter, a councilman. Niki works with her ex-partner to hunt down the killer and find Jade, who she suspects may have fallen victim to the culprit. I suspected the killer fairly early, but there were enough red herrings to keep me guessing until the end.
I have lived in Houston and am familiar with the Montrose area. Elvebak’s description truly captured the place. I strongly recommend this book.