Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: Voodoo River by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole/Joe Pike #5)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Good characters, interesting parts to the plot
Cons: Plot pacing way off overall
The Bottom Line:
Searching for parents
Plot pacing too uneven
To be a good book

Cole and Pike in the Bayou

I was on a mystery message board 15 or so years ago when some of the regulars started reading the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike mysteries by Robert Crais.  I remember them raving about Voodoo River, so when I realized that was the next in the series for me to read, I was jazzed.  Turns out I had a very different reaction to it.

Private Investigator Elvis Cole is hired by actress Jodie Taylor, the star of a very successful TV show, to find her birth parents.  No, she has no desire to meet them and she doesn’t want anything from them.  She only wants to find out about her medical history.  Jodie was born in Louisiana, so Cole catches the next flight out.

Since Jodie’s adoption files are sealed and Jodie wants all of this kept quiet, Elvis has to figure out a way to find her birth parents without anyone else knowing what he is doing.  He’s hardly started his investigation when someone starts following him.  Why would someone else be interesting in his investigation?

This seems like an interesting case, and the book starts quickly.  I was intrigued and settled back for a great ride.

Unfortunately, the book is very disjointed and never really develops into a decent mystery.  There are long passages that barely contribute to advancing the story.  Even when we do finally get to a crime that Elvis starts to care about, things don’t pick up until we get to the climax.  That leaves us with hardly any time for a well thought out climax.  Instead, we rush through it, and Crais uses his favorite technique, dues ex machina, to get the characters out of the jam he’s put them in.  It’s not quite as bad as in some books since he does a little set up for it, but he’s not completely successful at hiding it.

Fortunately, the characters do help to carry the novel.  Elvis is a fun main character, and his wise cracks help liven up the book.  His partner Joe Pike isn’t in much of the book, but I felt he was more of a character here, too.  That leaves the new characters, and there are a wide variety of them, most of whom are quite entertaining, although I must admit I had to wonder for a while just which of the female characters Elvis was going to bed, and when.  The constant rotation of females in his bed is certainly another thing I could do without in this series.

I listened to the audio book narrated again by Mel Foster.  He does a good job bringing all the characters to life without getting in the way of the story.  My problems with the pacing of the story have nothing to do with his narration.

I’m not sure what I’m missing in this book, but it certainly isn’t the best of the series.  Voodoo River needed another edit to pick up the pace of the plot and smooth out the climax.

Looking for more books in the series?  Here are the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike mysteries in order.


  1. The basic premise of this one definitely grabbed my attention so it's too bad that the book didn't deliver. It definitely sounds like there were major issues. It's always so strange when people go on about how great a book is and your reaction is basically meh. I've had a few like that.

    1. Others seem to love this one, so maybe it really is just me.

  2. I've never read anything by this author. This series is new to me. It does seem interesting, too bad it doesn't develop into a true mystery and the pacing wasn't right for you. At least you liked the characters.

    1. I've found the series to be uneven. On the whole, I enjoy them, but there are some subpar books. Unfortunately, this seems to be one of them.

  3. I read this years ago and don't remember much about it. But I think I prefer some of his other titles.

    1. It seems like this series is uneven. Usually, it seems like when I read a weak one, the next one is stronger.

  4. Sorry to hear this wasn't so great for you. As a whole, it sounds good though.

    1. The series is good overall, so definitely give it a try.