Best one yet. As a fan of Mr. Crais for many years, let me say that his narratives have drifted quite a way from "The Monkey's Raincoat", the introduction of his smartalec PI, Elvis Cole, "The World's Greatest Detective". I have been a little disappointed by the recent books. I felt the pace was off and the characters were aging without change. This novel brings together five characters we have met already: Elvis, his partner, Joe Pike, Joe's go-to guy, Jon Stone, LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his former US Marine war dog, Maggie. Add in some very nasty bad guys, a suspicious and unsympathetic LAPD hierarchy, Homeland Security and a renegade Chemical Engineer with 400 lbs. of untagged plastique and an agenda and you have one explosive plot which screams along it's twists and turns like a runaway car on Mulholland. I love the POV changes that allow us to evaluate the motives, intelligence and bravery of four different narrators as well as view the story from their different perspectives. I think I would have called the book "Secrets and Promises", but no doubt my agent would have shortened it to "The Promise". Hardly anything in fiction is more rewarding than discovering secrets and finding out who will keep their promises. Or not. The setting is Los Angeles, it's hills, parks, trails, canyons and valleys, freeways, parking lots, businesses and homes, Elvis Cole's A-frame cantilevered off Woodrow Wilson Drive, the K-9 training facility in Burbank and the new Police Administration Building. I think you will enjoy the dose of Elvis Cole's magic and the very remarkable females that you will meet in "The Promise".
The Promise is a typical Crais–Elvis Cole–Joe Pike book. Sort of. In this book, Elvis is tasked with finding a grief-stricken mother, which sounds simple enough but, as we all know, simple things always become bigger things when Crais writes them. What starts as a look-see by Elvis Cole into a very ordinary house becomes a deadly search for a killer and fugitive, as well as a peek into the dark side of terrorism — but with a kick-ass twist.
However, something fell a bit short in this book. Maybe it was my mindset at the time when I read it, or maybe it was something else, but the feel and tone of The Promise was…I dunno…off. Crais had reached impeccably high standards over the years and this time that standard didn’t surface as I’d expected. Though focused and with a strong through line, The Promise had lots of characters along with lots of movement and sidebars that, at times, became challenging to follow as a reader.
Am I saying The Promise is a bad book? Not at all. In fact, a bad book for Crais (if you can even call it that) is still a pretty damned good book compared to a lot of other published novels. But given my reading history with Crais, and the exacting and uber-high standards he’s set, and the almost superhuman-like qualities he offers in his storytelling, this one isn't the same in comparison. It felt like a stepping stone, maybe to a new series or a new cast of characters. I'm not giving up on Crais, by any means. I'm just writing this one off to Crais showing us that he can be occasionally human in his storytelling as opposed to his usual superhuman. :)
This is a difficult book for me to review because Robert Crais is one of my favorite authors and Elvis and Pike are two of my favorite fictional characters. It’s been more than three years since the last Elvis/Pike novel—and maybe that’s why I feel so disappointed with The Promise. I expected a lot more from a book that was delayed several months—presumably for rewrites—and then hyped so much.
In fact, someone who has never read an Elvis/Pike novel might find this more entertaining/enjoyable than longtime fans of the series. If you don’t already have a connection to the central characters, then you won’t notice that the spark is missing this time around.
Don’t get me wrong—Robert Crais is a terrific author, and a disappointing book in this series is still better than the overwhelming majority of books in this genre. But I think longtime readers/fans will be disappointed. I’ll list a few reasons why:
- Elvis’s trademark humor is flat and almost non-existent. - Jon Stone—who somehow gets younger, more talented, and speaks another language with each novel—is more of a central character than Pike. I’d love to see a standalone Jon Stone novel, but I’d rather see more of Pike in this series. - The Promise was originally billed in the product description as Elvis and Pike give their word and they keep it. They make a promise to a client, and they will keep it no matter the consequences. It also had Pike “bloodied” in a warehouse as Scott and Maggie arrive on the scene, and a group of rogue veteran soldiers up to no good—but none of that made it into the actual book. Which begs the question: why wasn’t the title changed? Because very little of the plot/storyline touches on the theme implied by the title and the product description. - I didn’t like the hybrid Elvis/Pike/Scott & Maggie show. There were too many POVs and protagonists for a novel of this length.
Overall, it’s a good book for this genre—but a disappointing book for such a great series: 3/5 stars.