Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Action, suspense, characters becoming real
Cons: All cons kidnapped
The Bottom Line:
Ben being kidnapped
Start this heart pounding thriller
With personal stakes
I know lots of people who rave about Robert Crais’s books, but I’ve found them to be hit or miss. That’s changed with The Last Detective. Sit back while I rave about this book.
As the book opens, Los Angeles based PI Elvis Cole is trying to repair things with Lucy Chenier, he girlfriend. She’s beginning to think that her ex-husband, Richard, is correct that Elvis’s world is too dangerous for her and her ten-year-old son Ben, while Elvis is trying to convince her that some of the events she’s seen since they got together were exceptions to what his life is like.
Lucy still does trust Elvis mostly since, while Lucy is out of town for a few days for work, she leaves Ben with Elvis. On the last afternoon, the unthinkable happens – Ben vanishes. After a frantic search of the neighborhood, Elvis gets a phone call. Only it’s not a ransom. The caller tells Elvis this is payback for sins from his past. The only problem is, Elvis doesn’t recognize the voice or know what the caller is talking about. With so many people investigating the case, can Elvis figure out what is really going on in time to save Ben?
Lucy and Ben have been in the past few books in the series, and I love these characters, so I was immediately pulled into the story. While most of the book is told from Elvis’s first person point of view, we get scenes from Ben’s point of view and even some from the point of view of Elvis’s partner Joe Pike. This adds to the suspense and our knowledge of what is really going on. Even though I figured out one plot point early on, I was still glued to the story to find out how it would end.
Just how engrossed was I in the book? I listened to the audio version narrated by James Daniels. I had already started the book, but I listened to the majority of it while driving to and from an event in Southern California. I was actually disappointed when I got home since I was in a very exciting point and I needed to know what was going on. I might have invented a reason to go out again that night to get just a little bit more of the story.
Since the kidnapper is targeting Elvis because of his past, we get our first real look at his past, from his childhood to an extended look at an incidence from his time in Vietnam. At first, I was disappointed because I wanted to know about what was happening to Ben, but then I got caught up in these flashbacks, too.
My biggest complaint with previous books has been that the characters, especially Joe Pike, haven’t felt real to me. That wasn’t the case here at all. We are seeing weakness in Joe even as we get to see a different side of Elvis. The rest of the cast are also strong characters. Fans of Crais’s other books will be glad to know that Carol Starkey pops up here. She was first introduced in the standalone Demolition Angel. I feel like we missed a piece of her life between that book and her appearance here, but that’s a very minor issue.
James Daniels’s narration of the book is mostly good. Occasionally, it is a little hard to keep the speakers straight in dialogue heavy passages, but that was rarely an issue for more than a line or two. It was very minor, and I was so pulled into the story I almost missed a turn or two while driving. He perfectly narrates the story without overdoing it or trying to make himself part of it.
As with all of Crais’s books, there is more language and violence than the cozies I normally read. A couple scenes of violence were unnecessary, but I didn’t feel the language was as out of place this time as in some of his other books.
I am also listening to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels on audio, and since the two characters live on the same street and inhabit a similar Los Angeles world, I often think of one series while listening to the other. That’s why I had to laugh when Bosch makes an unnamed cameo in this book. It’s a fun bonus, but if you don’t know who it is, it doesn’t impact this book at all. It makes me want to see the characters team up on a case sometime, however.