Thursday, December 31, 2015

What we're reading: Robert Crais

The Promise, from Robert Crais, brings together private detectives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike from his long-running series (the first was written in 1987!) with LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his partner (German Shepherd) Maggie, who starred in his last book, Suspect. Chapters are told by alternating narrators so that you get a fairly global view (piece by piece) of what's happening, which is a good technique for maintaining suspense and revealing key elements in a timely fashion.

The story begins with Elvis in the right place at the wrong time. He was hired by Meryl Lawrence to find her co-worker, Amy Breslyn, a chemical engineer who has gone missing. Meryl's supposed concern is that Amy is unstable because she's mourning her son, who died at the hands of terrorists in Nigeria. But when Elvis goes to visit someone who may have a lead on Amy, he finds himself in the middle of a police chase, complete with helicopters and a police dog (Maggie) on the scent of a suspect. Elvis can't disclose why he was at the house the police are scrutinizing, so he is (as usual) immediately at odds with them. Maggie's human partner, Scott, got a good look at their suspect before he got away, so after it's established that he's in danger from the suspect, the two of them are sidelined. At this point, he and Maggie form a partnership with Elvis to get to the bottom of this tangled story of lies, double crosses, mistaken identity, and the potential for a deadly outcome.

I liked this book a lot. It started with a fairly simple missing persons job for Elvis, but quickly turned into something else entirely…except then that something else wasn't what it seemed either! Super twisty, suspenseful, and imaginative.

There were just a few things that bothered me:

It's billed as an Elvis and Pike book, but Joe Pike makes three or four cameo appearances well into the story, speaks a few monosyllables (yes, I know that's Pike's trademark--the strong, silent type--but this was minimalist even for him), drives a car and stands a watch (again without comment or involvement) and otherwise might as well not have shown up. There's a lot more involvement by "independent contractor" Jon Stone than by Pike, and yet Jon doesn't even appear in the book's summary!

I also found the name of the book a little generic. There are multiple promises made by various people in this book, but none of them was so obvious as to say Oh, that's the promise that can't be broken. Was it Elvis's promise to keep his search for Amy a secret? Was it Amy's promise to her son, Jacob? Was it Jon Stone's promise to protect Amy? I feel like the book may suffer from its title's lack of  specificity.

The inclusion of Scott and Maggie was a wonderful addition, and I particularly enjoyed their partnership and the insights into their relationship, but…it seemed to allow less time for Elvis to be Elvis, which is too bad--I would have liked more of his trademark humor.

Still, for all of that I couldn't put it down. If you're a fan, be sure to read it, and if you aren't familiar with Robert Crais, check him out!

If you don't want to commit right away to the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, which admittedly spans a few decades (or you can't get a copy of this one because they're all on hold!), you could try one of his stand-alone novels first. They are actually my favorites of Crais's books, and include Demolition Angel, Hostage, and The Two-Minute Rule.

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