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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Promise by Robert Crais

G. P. Putnam's Sons, 416 pages, $27.95 (release date - 11/10/15)

In 1987, Robert Crais entered the mystery field with “The Monkey’s Raincoat,” a marvelous book that introduced us to Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole. After fifteen books Elvis has his fan club. His sidekick, Joe Pike, may have had his own book or two along the way, but this series is Elvis’ show. K-9 cop Scott James may have had a book of his own (“The Suspect”), but Elvis is the top dog. Here, in “The Promise,” the world is righted once again with cool, tough guy Pike and nice, emotionally vulnerable James playing second fiddles.

What distinguishes Elvis is his humor with attitude and equanimity without attitude. Also, Elvis is stylish. After all, he has a Pinocchio clock on his wall. He is the world’s greatest detective. How do we know that? Because Elvis says he is. All the time. He is astute and a good judge of character. When his newest client, Meryl Lawrence, hires him to find a co-worker, he suspects something is not quite on the up-and-up, especially when a dead body turns up.

Throw in explosives manufacturing and terrorist cells, and Elvis has a lot to figure out. It additionally complicates his life when the police peg him as a prime suspect in the murder of a man Elvis stumbles across while looking for his client’s co-worker. In the process he is almost killed by a police officer. Fortunately, that officer was Scott James, an ex-soldier who is smart enough not to overreact. He and Maggie, his German Shepherd partner, begin a strange and surreptitious relationship with Elvis to find out who really killed the man. It becomes especially vital when the killer next targets James, the only person who saw his face.

“The Promise” is a mishmash of first-person and third-person narration. Elvis, Pike, and James are joined by Jon Stone, an intermittent member of Elvis’ team. This gives us a bunch of points of view, including Maggie’s doggy perspective. The best parts are, of course, Elvis’ first-person storytelling. It is a little messy to have to juggle such different voices, but Crais has put together a great story. His twists are clever and the resolution quite unexpectedly moving.

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