Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book Review: Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais (Cole and Pike #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Interesting characters once they begin to develop
Cons: Slow pacing at times; personally, I found it dark
The Bottom Line:
Missing antique book
Leads Elvis down a dark road
Still could be stronger

Tracking the Code

Years ago, I know I read the first two books in Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole PI series.  And that was about all I could tell you about them.  But I’m finally going back and revisiting them with hopes to move on to the third.  Not that Stalking the Angel, the second, was an outstanding book.

It was a slow day when Jillian Becker and Bradley Warren walked into Elvis Cole’s PI office.  Bradley is a hotel mogul with tons of properties all over the world.  One of his top locations is Japan, and to honor his new property in LA’s Little Tokyo, he’s been loaned one of the few original Hagakure, the code of the Japanese Samurai.  However, this rare and valuable book has been stolen, and the police aren’t moving fast enough for Bradley’s tastes.

Elvis’s initial inquires quickly take him to the underside of Little Tokyo and bring to him a prime suspect.  But when murder enters the picture and Bradley’s family receives threats, the picture begins to change.  Who stole the book?  What could they want?

On my reread of the first book, I complained about how it fit into certain PI clich├ęs.  This book had a few of those, but it had some surprising twists and turns as well.  And yes, it had been long enough that I pretty much remembered none of what happened in the book.

Yet, I still felt the plot could be better.  This was especially true about two thirds of the way through when it pretty much came to a halt for what felt like a lecture.  Honestly, the story didn’t progress at all for a while.  Maybe this kind of thing was needed in 1989, but it certainly isn’t today and just comes across as padding.

Yes, this book was originally published in 1989, and it certainly does show in some of the details.  Cole has to use pay phones and answering machines.  And I had to keep reminding myself he couldn’t just search for information on his suspects on the internet.  Some of the pop culture references are definitely of the era as well.  However, if you know this going in, it shouldn’t be a problem for you at all.

There are few returning characters from the first book.  Obviously, there’s Cole and his partner Joe Pike, the silent muscle of the duo.  There are a couple of police officers who once again have a supporting role.  But mostly we are dealing with new characters.  They are interesting once you begin to peel back the layers.  At first glance, they do seem more types than actual characters, but that begins to change as we get to know them.

Now, I went in expecting something other than the light cozies I normally read.  I get that this is a PI novel.  But this one just seemed to get too dark as it went along.  That worries me since I’ve heard the series gets even darker as it goes along.  I know some of that is taste, but I’m not sure the book properly dealt with the darkness before it ended.  Then again, maybe that was the point - you can’t always deal with the darkness.

Elvis’s sarcasm and wit certainly did help lighten the mood at times.  We get it not only from his dialog but also from his first person narration.

I know this is a very popular series, but I’m not completely seeing why here.  Between the lecture disguised as fiction at one point and my personal reaction to how dark the book became, Stalking the Angel wasn’t that great a read.  Still, it wasn’t bad enough to make me want to give up on the series.  I’m sure I’ll be revisiting Pike and Cole again soon.

And you want to revisit them in the rest of the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series in order.


  1. I've seen this author before though I don't think I've ever tried him. While it sounds like this book was okay it doesn't sound like it was much more than okay. I think I'll give this series a pass. Thanks for sharing!

    1. As I said, lots of people love his books, so he must get better as he goes along. And I loved his book Suspect, so that might be a place to start, too.

      I just don't think he started out as strongly as some others say he did.