The Wanted, by Robert Crais.
I have finally caught up with the rest of the world and recognise a classic example of formulaic crime writing, especially when series protagonist ace Private Investigator Elvis Cole has top karate and kung-fu moves, cool looks, a smart mouth, and a murderous side-kick called Joe. Who could resist such a God? He makes other classic PI’s of modern fiction look like Grade A twits, and his villains – OMG, his bad guys are literally to DIE for!
Elvis is called by a frantic mother to investigate the mega-expensive Rolex watch she found hidden in her teenage son’s bedroom. Son Tyson has been expelled from several schools for ‘behavioural’ problems’ and has recently taken up with a girl that his mum deems wholly unsuitable. Elvis thinks so too when he searches Tyson’s desk (yep, Elvis is even better at ferreting out hiding places than a mum), and finds great wads of greenbacks: Tyson is a thief, and he and the wholly unsuitable girl have been burgling rich properties in Bel Air and other L.A. high-end neighbourhoods – just for the thrill of it, because life is boring, and life has been mean to them. They deserve to have some fun! And lots of money. The problem is, they took a laptop belonging to someone who has major incriminating secrets on it; the owner wants it back, and to that end has hired a couple of Enforcers, Harvey and Stemms, to recover it. All well and good, except that Harvey and Stemms are killers, and think nothing of leaving a trail of bodies in their wake as they track down the teenage burglars.
Well, thank the Lord for Elvis, his coolness, his Corvette, and sidekick murderous Joe: in short chapters and even shorter sentences, Mr Crais introduces and dispatches minor characters with experienced ease; we learn a little of Elvis’s backstory in the process – he fell in love a book or two ago; the lady had a son with whom Elvis bonded, and he would have loved to have been a dad – now he feels the sorrow of a solo life, but by the next book he may have paired up again; he attracts women like flies. Of course!
Anyway. Harvey and Stemms meet a very predictable fate – which is a shame, for they were more finely drawn than I expected, and a heap more interesting than some of the main characters, several of whom appeared to be forgotten about when this story ambled towards its end. And despite the pleasurable fact that Elvis has a cat so savage that all visitors give it a wide berth, I’m not inclined to read past or future books. This is Fast-Food writing: tasty, fills a gap, but has zero nutritional value. THREE STARS