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Book Author: Robert Crais

A DANGEROUS MAN by Robert Crais: Book Review

Isabel Roland seems to have a perfectly ordinary life.  She has a new job as a bank teller, although it can’t quite cover the bills for the house she inherited from her recently deceased mother.  The house is, to use a common expression, a “money pit,” but Isabel is happy at her job and is doing her best to keep her home in reasonable repair.

One of her repeat customers at the bank is Joe Pike, a man she’s attracted to; however, the attraction doesn’t seem to be returned.  After Pike completes his transaction in his usual matter-of-fact manner and leaves the bank, Isabel goes on her lunch hour.  As soon as she steps onto the sidewalk, a man stops her to ask for directions and then propels her into a waiting van.  Unfortunately for that man and for the driver inside the van, Joe Pike is parked across the street.

Isabel can’t understand what happened nor what the man who pushed her into the van means when he says, “We know your secret.”  Before he can say much more, the van’s front window explodes and the two men are thrown out.  And Pike appears.

Miles away, the body of a U. S. Marshall is found buried in a shallow grave.  What is the connection between that murder and the attempted abduction?

Early the next morning the police appear at Joe’s door, and he finds out that the two men who attempted to kidnap Isabel had made bail the night before and were found dead shortly afterward.  The police aren’t satisfied with Joe’s alibi, but they reluctantly take their leave after getting the names of neighbors who say they saw him at the time the murders had been committed.  Then, when Joe tries to return the call Isabel made to him the evening before, there’s no answer; when he drives to her address, she’s not there.

Across the street from Isabel’s home, Carly Knox, Isabel’s best friend, calls to him.  Isabel had texted Carly the night before, saying that she was certain the two men who had tried to kidnap her had returned and were outside her house.  She said she was heading to Carly’s house, but she never arrived, and Carly has not heard from her since.

Joe is not getting any satisfaction from his calls to the police involved in the case so he calls Elvis Cole, the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Detective.”  The two men have worked together many times, taking turns asking each other for help, each man having a different skill set.  As Pike explains to Carly, “He’s a detective.  I’m something else.”

As is true in every Robert Crais novel, the writing is taut, the plot moves at a fast pace, and the characters, both major and minor, are outstandingly portrayed.  But it is always Joe and Elvis who are at the center of the story, and their friendship is what makes the novels the terrific reads that they are.

You can read more about Robert Crais at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

 

 

 

 

THE WANTED by Robert Crais: Book Review

It’s not often, in fact it’s almost never, that I finish a mystery and think, that was beautiful Exciting, thrilling, suspenseful–those are my go-to adjectives for outstanding mysteries.  And The Wanted is all of those.  But beautiful is what I thought when I turned the last page of Robert Crais’ latest novel.  Robert Crais has always been one of my favorite authors, and this book proves once again that he’s absolutely one of the best writers in the mystery genre.

Elvis Cole is called to the home of Devon Connor over concerns she has about her teenage son Tyson.  He’s often had problems in school, difficulties making friends and handling the work, but on the whole he has been a good son.  Now, however, Devon knows Tyson has things he shouldn’t–expensive clothing, a Rolex watch, and several thousand dollars in cash in his room–and he has become extremely secretive as well.  There’s absolutely no way he can afford the clothing and watch, and there can’t be any explanation for him to have this much money, Devon tells Cole.

Devon thinks the problem started at his new school.  He met a girl there, whom he won’t introduce to his mother, and she introduced him to a slightly older man; the three of them are apparently spending a lot of time together.  Elvis agrees to look into where the Rolex came from, which seems the simplest way to start investigating; it turns out that it was stolen, along with a lot of other valuables, from a household in Beverly Hills.

Robert Crais’ writing, as always, keeps the reader engrossed throughout.  Over the years readers have gotten to know Cole and his sometimes partner Joe Pike, and in The Wanted the two work as smoothly as ever to find Tyson after he leaves home, before he can make an irreversible mistake that will land him in jail or worse.

The true skill in Crais’ writing is evident in his ability to make his one-time characters come alive, people you won’t meet again in other books but will remember for a long time.  Devon, Tyson’s mother, is shown as a woman concerned about her son’s lying and apparent thievery, and as the story progresses her reactions to the danger Tyson is in are portrayed expertly and realistically.

Equally well done are Crais’ portrayals of Harvey and Stemms, the two gangsters who are also looking for Tyson.  We know from the beginning that they are stone killers, intent on their job and letting nothing stand in their way of getting what they want or what the person who hired them wants.  But there are two vignettes–one when Stemms becomes extremely upset at Harvey’s use of the word “retarded” and another that takes place in Mexico and shows the incredible musical ability that Stemms possesses–that show another side of each man, and so the reader is reluctantly made aware that in spite of their brutality they are human.  You wonder what made these two men, who are sensitive and talented in some ways, go so wrong.

And the last, short chapter of The Wanted is simply outstanding.  I know the year is just beginning, but there’s no question that this novel will be on my Best of 2018 list.

You can read more about Robert Crais at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

THE PROMISE by Robert Crais: Book Review

Elvis Cole, the private investigator who is the protagonist of many of Robert Crais’ crime novels, has a very mysterious client.  Meryl Lawrence comes to him with a strange request–she wants him to find her colleague, Amy Breslyn, who has been missing for a couple of days, but she insists that the search must be conducted in complete secrecy.

She hands Elvis two thousand dollars in cash, an address for a friend of the missing woman’s late son, and a personnel file that she believes will help locate Amy.  Meryl’s desire for secrecy is so over-the-top that she won’t even come to Elvis’ office; instead, they meet in a parking lot behind a book store in Pasadena.

Both Amy and Meryl work at Woodson Energy Solutions, a chemical firm where Amy is employed as an engineer.  Meryl tells Elvis that because their work is classified, no indication of his investigation must get out and insists that Elvis make this promise.  “Swear to me.  Swear you won’t breathe a word.”  “I promise.” Bound by his word, Elvis is finding it increasingly difficult to probe into Amy’s disappearance.

Amy’s only son Jacob was a photographer who was killed, along with thirteen other people, by a terrorist explosion in Nigeria.  That was nearly a year and a half before the book opens, and since then Amy has become more and more reclusive.  Now she has disappeared.

Elvis goes to the address that Meryl has given him and is surprised to find it surrounded by Los Angeles police, with a helicopter overhead.  As he’s deciding how to handle the situation a man comes running out of the house, and Elvis gives chase.  He’s not able to catch him and is forced to stop when a policeman with a pistol confronts him.  Believing that Elvis has acted suspiciously, the cop puts him in a squad car without explanation.  But when Elvis sees the words on the police car he begins to understand what all the commotion is about:  they read Bomb Squad.

Cole is joined in the case by his long-time friend and colleague, Joe Pike, plus two relatively new characters to Elvis’ world:  Scott James and Jon Stone.  Scott is a former Marine who is presently a dog handler in the L. A. police department’s K-9 division; Jon Stone, a friend of Pike’s, is a former Delta Force member turned mercenary, with expertise in technology.  Together, the four men, with assistance from Scott’s dog Maggie, team up to find Amy Breslyn and solve the mystery surrounding her.

As always, it’s a delight to reconnect with Elvis Cole.  He’s a protagonist who has grown with the series, a fascinating man with his own set of quirks and strengths.  He is perfectly described by Raymond Chandler’s famous quote about mean streets (my edits):  “a man…who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.  He is the hero; he is everything….If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

You can read more about Robert Crais at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

THE FIRST RULE by Robert Crais: Book review

The second novel featuring Joe Pike is a winner, just like the first.  To my mind, Robert Crais has never written a book that wasn’t terrific, and apparently he’s not about to start with The First Rule.

Frank Meyers, a member of Joe’s former contract military team, is gunned down in his house, along with his wife and two young sons. The only survivor is a nanny, who is in a coma.  The police connect Pike to Meyers through a photo in the deceased’s house, but when they tell Pike that Frank must have been dirty like all the other victims of recent home invasions in the city, he refuses to believe it.  At a hospital visit to see the nanny, Pike meets her sister.  The nanny dies, and the sister hires Pike to recover a baby she says is hers; the nanny was hiding the boy at the Meyers’ home from his father, a Serbian mob boss.  So Pike has two goals:  to prove that Meyers was clean and to find the missing baby.  What could the killers want with a ten-month-old child?  Was killing Meyers the reason for the invasion or was he collateral damage?

The title of the book comes from the thieves’ code in the former Soviet Union, the Vorovskoy Zakon.  It’s made up of eighteen written rules, the first one being:

A thief must forsake his mother, father, brothers, and sisters.

He must not have a family–no wife, no children.

We are his family.

If any of the eighteen rules are broken, the punishment is death.

Halfway through the book, Pike calls on Elvis Cole, his close (and possibly only) friend and business partner to help him with this case. Pike also calls on a few others, a couple of whom were also members of his contract team.  But feeling that Meyers was clean and being able to prove it is something else, something that Pike needs to do for his own sake.

Following The Watchman, The First Rule shows a more developed, more human side of Pike, although the reader must wait until the end of the book to discover it.  It’s a surprising discovery, but it’s worth the wait.

You can also learn more at Robert Crais’s web site.