ROBERT CRAIS – Indigo Slam. Ballantine, paperback reprint; 1st printing, February 2003. Hyperion, hardcover, June 1997.


   To begin with, there are two small mysteries here. First, why did it take so long for a hot book by a hot author to make the move from hardcover to paperback? (At the moment, the paperback is ranked 4087th in Amazon’s listings, a fact which will be far out of date by the time you read this, but as far as private eye detective paperbacks go, this is Pretty Good.)

   And secondly, since this is the seventh Elvis Cole novel, why it is that this is the first one I’ve read? I have no answer. I do have a large backlog of books to read, though — is that an excuse? I probably should have started with the first one (The Monkey’s Raincoat, a paperback original from Bantam in 1987), but this one just came out, it looked inviting, and so in I dove.

   Refreshing it was, too. Crais is a smooth writer, and he manages to juggle a couple of unrelated plot lines in quite acceptable fashion. If nothing else, Cole is good at multi-tasking. What gets the book going and is its main point of focus thereafter are Cole’s clients, three young children whose father is missing. Thanks to the short prologue, we know more than Elvis does, but he fills in the gap soon enough: their dad is a drop-out from a Federal witness protection program.

   In backtracking Clark Hewitt’s trail, Cole has help from his laconic, all-purpose partner, Joe Pike — whether they admit it or not, an entire generation of private eye writers has definitely been influenced by Robert B. Parker — and the stakes keep growing higher and higher. I’ll skip the details. Read the book.

   In between run-in’s with various mobsters of every ilk, almost all of them with guns, Lucy, the love of Elvis’s life, is having trouble with her ex, and in the middle, of course, is our hero.

   If the story itself is little more than ordinary, the reason is because the people who are in it who are quite remarkable. The kids who Elvis is working for are superbly drawn: the youngest rather quiet and shy, the boy in the middle suitably bratty, and the oldest, well at 15, she’s been their mother of the other two for quite some time, and as such, she’s simply terrific.

— June 2003

[UPDATE] 03-31-10.   The current Amazon ranking for the paperback edition is #16,211, not bad for a mystery that’s nearly 13 years old (but still in print). Unfortunately for me, this is still the only book by Robert Crais that I’ve read. Re-reading my review just now, I’m stumped. I really am.