A modern-day, hard-boiled Raymond Chandler disciple with a knack for writing excellent mystery-thrillers with characters who strive to be better than what they are, Crais is among the small collection of authors who’s books I would rather run out and buy than be on the hold list at my local library. I’ve recently been revisiting some of my own personal favorite books since we at Bookpusher HQ are on pins and needles waiting for a certain kiddo to get here. (No sign yet of progress, and my wife is about three days away from borrowing the Jaws of Life from the local fire station to make his thing happen.)Most of Crais‘ novels are told from the point of view of private detective Elvis Cole, self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Detective, an ex-Army Ranger who likes to collect Walt Disney paraphernalia. When the series starts he’s an Olympic-level wisecraker, but in later books Crais has shifted the focus from making us laugh to finding out what exactly about Cole the wisecracks are hiding. In L.A. Requiem, Cole shares the story with his silent partner, ex-cop and violent force of nature Joe Pike. He’s usually the vengeful muscle but in this novel comes out of the shadows here to participate in the story.
Pike is hired to track down his ex-girlfriend, who is later found murdered. In charge of the police investigation is an old nemesis from Pike’s days at the LAPD who has an entire roomful of axes to grind and wants to make Pike for the murder, along with a string of similar killings. Pike and Cole are employed by the ex-girlfriend’s father to keep an eye on the investigation. Cole is struggling with a sea change in his own life – his own girlfriend with a son in tow has moved to L.A. to be close to him, and Cole’s involvement in his friend’s case is putting him in the middle of a conflict. Cole struggles keeping all the balls in the air while trying to track down the real murderer.
Crais is an author I love to use for Reader’s Advisory – he’s a former television writer for shows like Hill Street Blues, among others, and always has an excellent sense of pace, action, and character. His novels fit neatly among those by Michael Connelly and Lee Child – all of these are likely in the “C” section of your library’s mystery section, which is probably why I always associate them together.
Also, a criminally-underrated Bruce Willis film, Hostage, that came out a few years ago was adapted from a stand-alone Crais novel, which is well-worth reading and an excellent jumping-on point for new readers.