ROBERT CRAIS – The Wanted. Elvis Cole #17 (*). G. P. Putman’s Sons, hardcover, December 2017; premium paperback, December 2018.

   It’s been a while since I read one of the Elvis Cole books, several years at least, but nothing seems to have changed in the interim. Cole is still the laid back kind of guy he’s always been. Maybe not quite as glib and quick with the quips as he was in the early books, and maybe (probably almost assuredly) I’ve missed some character growth along the way, but at least I didn’t see any big changes in this one.

   (*) The count may be off. I believe my number includes three Joe Pike books in which Elvis pops up as a secondary character. Pike is Elvis’s strong arm assistant whom he calls upon when he needs strong arm assistance. Elvis is tough enough too handle most most situations, but there almost always comes a point in any case he’s working on that Pike comes in awfully handy.

   For a book that’s almost 400 pages long in its tall paperbark version, the case is a simple one. He’s hired by an immature teen-aged boy’s mother to find out where all of the money he’s flashing around is coming from.

   It turns out that he’s been part of a gang of youthful burglars, two boys an a girl who’ve found that stealing things is an absolute lark. That is to say it’s been fun for a while. Now two literate hitmen are on their trail. It seems as though the youthful gang has stolen something that someone desperately wants back and is willing to kill to get it back.

   The book is very smoothly done, with a caveat I’ll get to in a minute. I did find the shifting points of view jarring at first, but slowly but surely Crais convinced me that he knew what he was doing, and he did.

   The caveat I mentioned, though. It’s frustrating that after 380 pages of methodical detective work on Cole’s part, the book ends with him making a rookie mistake, a decision so wrong-minded that I winced as soon as he made it. It does allow for Joe Pike to come riding in to the rescue, as well as help from another unexpected source, but what I was was disappointed.