I can’t stop reading Crais.
In this one, our hero Elvis Cole is pulled into a case by long-time partner, Joe Pike. Despite seven earlier books, this is the first story that has Pike initiating an investigation. A very influential and wealthy father of an ex-girlfriend wants Joe to find her after she’s gone missing. Elvis, much to his dismay, is pulled away from helping Lucy settle into her new L.A. apartment in order to help his closest friend.
“The Santa Anas continued to pick up as we drove north to the second Jungle Juice. Palm trees, tall and vulnerable like the necks of giant dinosaurs, took the worse of it. The wind stripped the dead fronds that bunched beneath the crowns and tossed them into streets and yards and onto cars.”
Out of all the books I’ve read so far, this one most follows a traditional mystery format. Shortly after the woman goes missing, she’s found dead. For a number of reasons, it becomes Joe and Elvis’ primary mission to identify and capture her killer. The investigation takes a number of turns, a couple of which were entirely unpredictable. After decades of mystery books, I always enjoy it when a book manages to realistically surprise me, or at the very least, raise the eyebrows. Of course, as the story progresses, aspects become less plausible. I had trouble believing the character of the murderer, when they became known, and found the combination of cunning and reckless crazy implausible. As it was all in way of a positive outcome, I’m forgiving.
“We asked the people at the flower shop if they had seen anything, but they hadn’t. We asked every shopkeeper in the strip mall and most of the employees, but they all said no. I hoped they had seen something to indicate that Karen was safe, but deep down, where your blood runs cold, I knew they hadn’t.”
Character development is solid, with the bulk of it fleshing out Joe and his history. I found myself appreciated the background, as most of the observations Elvis makes about his best friend tend to be consistent (why, why must he always describe the tattoos and the sunglasses?) and underwhelming. In fact, I’m not sure how much of the Joe backstory is actually known by Elvis. Regardless, it added a lot to the story, and I’m sure future books, even if the general psychology of the individual (as Poirot likes to say) was unsurprising. But I appreciate congruence, that the back-story fits the man we’ve come to barely know. Elvis’ characteristic moments of humor that continue to provide lighter moments, as does the surly attitude of Elvis’ cat. I don’t know if I can say I enjoyed the direction Elvis’ and Lucy’s relationship took, but it felt largely organic, reminding me of their first encounters in Voodoo River.
Overall, an enjoyable, diverting read. Took me right out of this rainy fall day to the hot, smoky atmosphere of L.A. Bravo. Thankfully, Crais has already written a few encores.