Veteran thriller-maven Crais (Taken, 2012, etc.) returns with a pleasingly perplexing storyline fresh from the headlines.
The heroine of the piece is Maggie, a 3-year-old German shepherd on her second deployment as a patrol and bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan. She is fiercely loyal to her handler—so when the inevitable happens, as it does in the evocative, grisly set piece that opens Crais’ latest, she’s thrown for a loop. Crais has to get a little didactic to provide the basis for innocent civilians: “Dogs suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shared similar stress reactions with humans, and could sometimes be retrained, but it was slow work that required great patience on the part of the trainer, and enormous trust on the part of the dog.” True dat. For her sacrifice, Maggie is not sent to live out her life on the farm, but instead teamed up with trauma-stricken, guilt-ridden LAPD officer Scott James, who, like Maggie, has lost his partner in action. The difference is that Maggie’s handlers know who the bad guys were, whereas James has to go Rambo and find out who shot up him and his friend. The answer, revealed after a sequence of carefully plotted, well-described episodes, won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s read James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, though the resolution is more up-to-date. The story takes in vast swaths of Los Angeles in all its multicultural glory, with baddies in the drug and diamond and policing businesses alike. And it’s oddly affecting, with Crais ably capturing the bond between humans and canines without veering into sentimentality.
A solid, muscular thriller, well-spun.