Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: Free Fall by Robert Crais (Cole/Pike #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting, fast paced story
Cons: Joe Pike still a weak character
The Bottom Line:
Cop with a secret
Cole and Pike land in danger
Still page turning read

The Bottom Drops Out from Cole Fast on This Case

When I first tried the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels almost 15 years ago, I stopped after the dark second book in the series.  Now that I’ve pushed past that, I’m finding I’m enjoying my visits with these characters.  Free Fall is the fourth book in the series, and it’s another good mystery.

It’s a pleasant spring day when Jennifer Sheridan walks into Elvis Cole’s PI office.  She is concerned about her boyfriend.  They’ve been together for years, but suddenly Mark Thurman is hiding something from her, and she’s afraid he’s been involved in a crime.  Since he’s a police officer, Jennifer wants Cole to look into it.

Cole initially finds a simple, obvious, and believable explanation.  However, Jennifer just isn’t buying it.  She convinces Cole to look again, and he begins to find things that point to Mark being in serious trouble.  What has Mark gotten himself into?  Can Cole and his partner Joe Pike get him out of it?

The book was first published in 1993, in the shadow of the Rodney King trial.  It’s interesting to look back at that considering the issue is back in the news today.  It’s also interesting realizing just how much our lives have changed in some other ways in the last 20+ years.  In the age before wide spread internet and cell phone use, investigations happened differently.

Those elements aside, this is an interesting case, and watching it unfold kept me quite entertained.  There are some surprises, both good and bad, along the way, and the stakes keep going up for Elvis, Joe, Jennifer, Mark, and the others in the book.  I was left wondering just how things would be resolved until the very end.

There aren’t too many recurring characters in this series, so the focus is on the new ones.  They are all sharp, and I liked watching them and our opinions of them develop along the way.  Elvis is a good main character, and I love spending time with him, which is important since he narrates the book first person.

Of course, I do have to issue my normal complaint.  Joe Pike still comes across more as a superhero deus ex machina than a real character.  This also cuts down on the suspense in a few scenes.  Oh, and I really don’t want to ride in the car with author Robert Crais.  He must drive like a maniac given some of the travel times he gives for his characters in this book.

The book has more language than I would normally read, although I didn’t feel it got gratuitous given the characters involved.  Likewise, the violence is more graphic than I would normally read but fits the PI genre perfectly.  These are issues to note if you tend to stick to the cozy end of the spectrum like I do, but they didn’t lower my enjoyment of the book.

Once again, I listened to the audio version with Mel Foster as the narrator.  He continues to do a wonderful job bringing the characters and story to life without getting in the way of the events.

So if you’ve overlooked the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels, go back and give them a chance.  Now that I’ve finished Free Fall, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to this duo next.

And the next adventure can be found by read the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series in order.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.  Follow the link to read more entries.


  1. The homicidal super sidekick became kind of a stock figure in mysteries. The earliest one I can think of was Hawk in Robert Parker's Spenser books. Then along came Pike, Win Lockwood in Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series, Clete Purcell in James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux books, and I am sure there were others.

    Pike does develop as a character as the series goes on; at least you find out why and how he became the way he is. Crais eventually made Pike the main character in a series of his own, with Elvis Cole supporting him.

    1. I'm not familiar enough with the PI genre to have seen this type of character very often. But those names sound familiar, so I'm sure it is a stock character of the genre.

      I can't wait to see Pike be developed more as I go along in the series.

  2. Don't forget Bubba Rogowski in Dennis Lehane's Kenzie-Gennaro series. I read one of Crais's with Pike as the main character, which not only gave him depth but gave Cole an interesting syncopated role in support. Been awhile since I read Crais, and I'm sure he's written plenty more since I left off. No particular reason. Not that I tired of him, but probly just moved to something different. This review has me reassessing that decision.

    BTW, I like the capsule critique you have at the top.

    1. I will definitely be interested to watch the dynamic between Cole and Pike when I get to the Pike books.

      And I'm glad you like the capsule critique. It came from another site I used to review for, and I just kept doing it when I started my blog.

  3. This is one of several Robert Crais books I reread and I still laugh out loud at the restaurant scene. I'm a big fan of Elvis and Joe. I, for one, love Joe Pike and think his character is just as it should be. Of course, later in L.A. REQUIEM, we learn more about Joe's background and he becomes less mythical and more real - though not overly so. I like Joe just the way he is.

    1. There are some great moments in this book, aren't there?

      Really looking forward to learning more about Joe. Thanks for letting me know when I can expect it.