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Book Author: Robert Crais

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.