The Wanted by Robert Crais (Crime/Mystery Novel, 2017).
This, the latest in a long-running PI series, is novel number 21 for Robert Crais. So it’s no surprise that it’s very capably written and involving. Devon Connor, a single mother of modest means, employs Elvis Cole to find out what her teenaged son Tyson is doing to earn extra cash and expensive toys. She’s fearful that he’s become a drug dealer, but the real problem is at least as dangerous: Tyson and two friends are breaking into rich people’s homes.
Yet possible burglary charges turn out to be a lesser threat, when they carry off a laptop that (unknown to them) contains hidden evidence involving a deadly criminal conspiracy. The laptop’s wealthy owners turn a couple of quirky and ruthlessly savage thugs loose on the greater LA area–to get the computer back and eliminate the thieves, and anyone else that might get in the way.
Crais wisely keeps the details of exactly what the missing device has under wraps for most of the book. But readers know more about the murderous pair of bad guys than Cole and his taciturn partner Joe Pike, courtesy chapters that detail the offbeat (and weirdly entertaining) thugs’ exploits. Like chapters dedicated to Devon, Tyson and others, these are written in third-person. But when Cole takes centerstage, the narrative shifts flawlessly to first-person. This literary technique of changing viewpoints once was rare and sometimes looked down on in literary circles. Yet it’s become popular in recent years and in the hands of a skilled and careful wordsmith (like Crais here) it works most effectively.
I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but I’ll say this one has plenty of action (and violence), interesting and varied characters (including, as I noted above, the main bad guys whose personalities, non-work fixations and bonded relationship all fascinate me). Meanwhile, Cole and Pike somewhat remind me of Robert Parker’s wry detective Spencer and his dangerously capable buddy Hawk (the comparison is not meant critically, I should note).
Overall, The Wanted is good, solid crime fiction set in southern California and packed with characters that will reward your attention.