ROBERT CRAIS – Lullaby Town. Elvis Cole #3. Bantam, hardcover, 1992; paperback, 1993. Reprinted several times since.


   Crais is one of those writers who irritate the hell out of me. He is an excellent prose stylist, at least to my ear; witty, glib, adept at characterization, a lot of good things.

   So what’s not to like? Well, in his first two Elvis Cole books it was a pair of plots that made some of Parker’s macho excesses seem restrained. I didn’t buy this one for that reason, but waited until I came across it in the library.

   Peter Alan Nelson, wunderkind Hollywood director, dumped a wife and child early in his career, and now he wants them back. What he wants he’s in the habit of getting, so he hires Elvis Cole to find them for him.

   Our boy is nothing but efficient, so he finds her in short order in a small Connecticut town with a happy family life, a career, and a secret. The secret involves a New York mob family and the psycho son of the Godfather himself. Things get sticky quickly, so Cole calls for his Hawk-clone, Joe Pike, and you know what happens now, and who it happens to.

   The good or bad news, depending on your taste, is that nothing’s changed. Crais is still an excellent wordsmith, Cole is still wisecracking and caring, Pike is still deadly as a wino’s wakeup breath, and the bad guys are still really nasty. And once again, our boys defy reality and take on the mob and win.

   Of all the imitators that Parker has spawned, Crais is probably the most like him; except that he doesn’t even pay lip service to reality. He still pisses me off, and if I read his next, Free Fall, it’ll also be from the library. But if you like the kind of book he writes, nobody but Parker does it better.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #7, May 1993.