I’ll say it right off the top: I hate kidnapping plots. When I realized this was centered on a kidnapping (that’s not a spoiler; it’s clear from both the title and chapter one), I almost skipped it. However, I am sadly at the end of the Elvis Cole series, with only this and the latest book, Wanted, remaining. I decided to trust Crais, who hasn’t really let me down since book three, and was glad I did.
Taken has a fast moving plot that begins when a college-age couple is partying with friends in the desert and run into a frightening situation. It is quickly followed by a scene with Joe Pike and Jon Stone. What seemed fairly straightforward on the surface ends up being very complex behind the scenes, and leads to complications for the rescue.
The story goes back and forth between different timelines, signalling what is going on with chapter headings like “Five days before XX is taken’ so the reader can keep track. Crais also switches narrative viewpoints between the young adults, Pike, Stone and Elvis, and one additional character, along with a brief viewpoint from a kidnapper.
Overall the narrative lacks a sense of cohesiveness. The timeline changes end up being somewhat disruptive, and instead of building tension, actually somewhat diffuse it. I’m okay with that, honestly, but it’s worth noting for those who like the sense of increasing danger, although the outcome is never seriously in doubt. Like ’80s action movies, Good will Always Triumph Against Evil (none of this modern ambivalent heroes or endings, thank you very much). Along those lines, I also appreciated that Crais didn’t linger overmuch on potential/torture issues with our missing people.
There was one moment of really solid writing that sticks in my mind, but I already sent the book back to the library, so unfortunately, I’m unable to share. It’s one of the things that sets Crais above the average thriller/serial mystery writer, but it’s in shorter supply here than in his mid-series books. He notes in the acknowledgements that this one was harder to write, and I think it shows. Overall, a solid installment but definitely not one of his best.