THE INNOCENCE GAME. By Michael Harvey. Alfred A. Knopf. 241 pages. $24.95.

Good intentions. The idealism of youth.

Michael Harvey’s “The Innocence Game” pits both against a long-standing conspiracy of killers as three Northwestern graduate students take another look at a 14-year-old murder case.

It quickly becomes much more dangerous than just the possibility of a failing grade on an academic exercise.

As the students hunt answers to what really happened to 10-year-old Skyler Wingate, they’re being hunted, too, not by the boy’s killer but by those who cared more about using the crime to further their own ambitions than catching a serial murderer.

“The Innocence Game” is twisty and layered, with a maze of motives, crimes and cover-ups. The Chicago corruption angle might be a bit overused in novels and movies, but this book uses the premise well and as a whole is quite well-done.

LIVE BY NIGHT. By Dennis Lehane. William Morrow. 402 pages. $27.99.

Why would anyone want to read about the life of a gangster, about all the crime, killing, depravity and conscienceless harm done by, to and around him? Maybe because it’s a really good book.

Joe Coughlin has been a criminal since he hit his teens and has no desire to be one of those people who lives in the daytime and follows society’s rules. It’s Boston, it’s Prohibition, and he likes the night.

Still, Coughlin considers himself an outlaw, not a gangster. He’s not completely soulless, but there’s no heart of gold next to his gun holster. You don’t exactly want to root for Coughlin, because he is unapologetically a bad guy, but you’ll get so swept up in the story that you do feel for him.

Best-selling and award-winning author Dennis Lehane’s “Live by Night” is fabulously rich in detail about the characters, the era and the places it encompasses. It’s also rich in details of violence, though not overly graphic.

But mostly, it’s rich in story.

It’s not a joy to read — it’s kind of depressing and disheartening in places — but it’s certainly enjoyable.

Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.