Byline: Dick Lochte
When novelist Robert Crais introduced Elvis Cole
in "The Monkey's
Raincoat" a little over a decade ago, the West Coast private eye owed
much to Robert B. Parker's well-established Boston sleuth, Spenser.
Though younger and hipper (Spenser pounded the bags at Henry Cimoli's
gym; Cole achieves mind-body perfection with taekwondo), he was just
as fast with a quip and just as ruggedly efficient at solving crimes and
sauteing veggies. During the intervening years, Crais gradually has moved
Elvis out of Spenser's shadow with plots and situations of increasing moral
complexity that, in turn, have added dimension to the character. In the ambitious
new "L.A. Requiem" (Doubleday, $ 23.95, 382 pages), the author has created
that rara avis--the series entry that threatens to break through the genre barrier.
Some of this has to do with technique. Unlike
previous Elvis novels, this one
is not limited solely to time-honored first-person narration. Key chapters are
devoted to the difficult past and perilous present of his heretofore enigmatic
partner Joe Pike. Some sections follow the gradual decline of a particularly
well-drawn edgy LAPD officer named Samantha Dolan and still others
focus on the elusive serial killer whom they all seek.
"Requiem" offers more than just multiple points
of view, however. Crais has
crafted a full-bodied novel that explores such topics as honor and friendship
and justice and love, that brings its protagonists to a new point of self-awareness
and, not incidentally, that provides the kind of puzzle plot that sends mystery fans
into paroxysms of joy.
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