Elvis on steroids. Strictly for the Russian-judge contingent.


Before he hit the big time with Hostage (2001), Crais made his name with seven novels about wisecracking but ever tougher L.A. shamus Elvis Cole. Now his old hero’s overheated return suggests that somebody can’t go home again.

Minutes before Elvis’s ladylove, lawyer–turned–TV commentator Lucy Chenier, returns from five days on the road, her son Ben, who’s been bonding with Elvis during his mom’s absence, is snatched from under his host’s nose. The scant evidence points to a team of professional mercenaries, killers for hire—exactly the sort of guys Lucy’s ex, Baton Rouge gas exec Richard Chenier, has repeatedly warned Lucy her new beau attracts—so it’s no wonder that Richard, jumping a jet out to the coast, arrives with smoke pouring from his ears and a trio of his own alleged experts in tow: a pair of retired New Orleans cops and Leland Myers, Richard’s own security chief. The obligatory squabbles about whose fault the kidnapping is, who ought to be first up in the investigation, and who ought to just stay out of the way is notable mainly for Elvis’s ease in getting L.A. detective Carol Starkey, visiting from another Crais stand-alone (Demolition Angel, 2000), to side with him and his old partner Joe Pike, who’s manfully struggling to recover from the wounds he suffered in Elvis’s last outing (L.A. Requiem, 1999) and his shame at running from a bear (don’t ask). The detective work, when Elvis has a chance for it, is sound and the plot twisty enough, but that’s no longer enough for Crais, who ups the ante with flashbacks to Elvis’s neglected childhood and Vietnam service, gives his villains the world-class bad-guy credentials you’d expect from an Austin Powers movie, and stages action scenes so quick that “all of it happened in milliseconds, or maybe even faster.”

Elvis on steroids. Strictly for the Russian-judge contingent.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50426-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.


Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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