Crais bids to break out of his successful Elvis Cole formula’streamlined plotting, smiling charm, slick action, happy endings—with Elvis’s ambitious seventh case. This one begins as quiet as you please, with Elvis’s unofficial partner Joe Pike asking him to help find the missing daughter of Joe’s friend, tortilla king Frank Garcia. Not even the news that Karen Garcia has been shot dead sets it apart. What’s new are Crais’s persistent glimpses into closemouthed Joe’s violent past as an abused child, a Marine on reconnaissance, and an LAPD officer who left plenty of enemies behind when he left the force. Now that powerful Frank Garcia wants Joe and Elvis given permission to tag along with the cops and report back to him on the case, all the bad blood between Joe and his ex-colleagues boils over. And when a second killing seems to have Joe’s name on it, L.A.’s finest are only too eager to haul him in. Meantime, things have gotten complicated for Elvis too: Samantha Dolan, the tough Robbery-Homicide cop assigned to babysit him, wants to follow him all the way home, a plan that doesn’t sit well with Lucy Chenier, the Baton Rouge attorney who switched homes and jobs to be with Elvis. As the tension ratchets up, even Elvis (Indigo Slam, 1997, etc.) seems to notice that his trademark unvoiced wisecracks are out of key, and he shuts them down long enough to go after the real killer before Joe can get packed off to the big house where all the inmates are who’ll just love to greet him. The killer, by design, is a nonentity—one of the few letdowns in a taut, suspenseful case that opens up scars that easygoing Elvis never looked into before.