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.