Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: L. A. Requiem by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #8)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Background on Joe; overall good mystery
Cons: Some clinches creep into character and story
The Bottom Line:
Background on Joe Pike
As related case unfolds
Turns out mostly good




Finally Time to Learn About Pike

One of the complaints I have had about the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike books has been the lack of development of the leads, especially Joe Pike.  L. A. Requiem addresses that, giving us background on the PI as we delve into a case that hits close to home for him.

It all starts when Elvis and Joe are asked to find a missing woman.  It just happens that Karen Garcia and Joe dated years ago when he was still an officer with the LAPD.  Karen has only been missing for a day, but her father is certain that something bad has happened to her, and since the police aren’t taking it seriously yet, He wants Elvis and Joe to find her.

Unfortunately, the police find her first when someone calls in about a dead body at Lake Hollywood.  Since the police didn’t take him seriously before, Karen’s father insists that Elvis and Joe are kept in the loop on the case, and he has the power to make that happen.  Naturally, that doesn’t sit well with the police, especially considering the circumstances when Joe left the department.  Can the duo gain any trust with the LAPD?  Can the two of them solve the case?

We know we are in for a Joe centric book from the very first page since it actually starts out with a flashback to a portion of the incident that ended Joe’s LAPD career.  Throughout the book, we are treated to glimpses of Joe’s past from various points in his life as well as some scenes from the third person point of view of Joe and others involved in the present day case.  Most of the book is still narrated by Elvis in first person, however, complete with his asides and sarcasm.  These point of view changes are easily marked, so we can always follow what is happening.

Make no mistake about it, this is definitely darker in tone than the normal books I read.  We are in full hard boiled mode here.  That was something I had to remind myself as I read, especially in the final pages as things really turned dark.  Elvis’s humor does lighten things at times, but it is toned down from previous books.

In a case of be careful what you wish for, I must admit I was disappointed with Joe’s backstory.  It felt too familiar.  Yes, the book was written in 1999, so it is close to 20 years old at this point, but I still think that we could have had a few surprises in Joe’s backstory that might still explain why he is the way he is.  I definitely felt like we got to know Elvis better as a result of the events in this book, which is good, and the other characters are interesting.

The plot started strong and held my attention throughout.  However, the climax was rushed with a key piece of the story – the motive – being all but glossed over.  Again, the plot suffered from a couple of clich├ęs as well, but again that might be because I’m looking at it with eyes that have seen 20 years more of detective fiction.  Meanwhile, a few of the pesky details of the plot get glossed over at the end in a fashion that I didn’t find completely believable and bordered on Crais’s trademark due ex machina. 

At this point, you’d be expecting me to talk about the audio version since that’s how I’ve been reading this series over the last couple of years.  Sadly, I can’t do that this time since neither of the libraries I have access to have the audio book.  I actually had to read the book itself.  (Talk about your first world problems.)  I found myself reading certain lines in the way the various narrators have does it in the past, but overall it was interesting seeing how the characters, especially the new characters, came across to me solely from the page.

This also allowed me to really savor the final chapter.  It really is a love letter to Los Angeles, and as a resident of the area, I truly enjoyed it.  It also found that it ended the book on a slightly more positive note than the final few chapters had been giving us.

L. A. Requiem is considered one of the highlights of Robert Crais’s career.  While I didn’t find it quite as good as others seem to, I certainly enjoyed it and look forward to seeing where these characters go from here.

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

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

5 comments:

  1. I haven't read this one yet, having started at the beginning but getting bogged down 5 or 6 books in, as much as I like the writing and characters. Not sure why that happened. I'm sorry to read of the POV shifts, that's a problem for me. It made me drop out of the newest Pronzini, - whose Nameless books I love - which has a POV shift every chapter.

    I'll get to this eventually, so I thank you for the heads up. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.

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    1. I love POV shifts if they are done well. It's not something you see in mysteries regularly, but when done well, it can really elevate the story.

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  2. I love this book so I can't be sensible about it. I think we do not need to know more about Joe Pike, so learning more about Elvis was probably Bob Crais' intent. I think in the main, these Joe and Elvis books are about their friendship. NOTHING comes between their friendship and never has it been more strained than in this book which should have won the Edgar in the year it was nominated.

    Pike is meant to be a bit 'other-wordly' - I discussed this once with Crais (in an email exchange) and I didn't get the idea that he disagreed. But I must say that this is more apparent (at least to me) in the earlier half of the series leading up to and including LA REQUIEM.

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    1. I agree with you, Yvette, that a little background mystery to characters tends to spice the stew. I've read only two or three in this series some time back. I don't recall the titles, but one featured Pike as the protagonist. Basically I like Crais's style but I moved away from the genre.

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    2. To me, Crais relies too much on the due ex machina to get himself out of corners he's written himself into, and Pike is his usual means of doing that. Just have Pike show up and shoot everyone. This is especially true in the earlier books.

      I was hoping that eventually Pike would be fleshed out as a fuller character, but so far he seems to still be a cliche.

      I do agree that their friendship is wonderful and the heart of the series. I absolutely love that.

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