Laid-Back P.I.

Lullaby Town. By Robert  Crais.
(Newsweek, March 16, 1992)

Byline: Ray Sawhill

Elvis Cole, the hero of Robert  Crais's  third private-eye novel,
does business the California way -- it looks like casual recreation
to people from less forgiving climates.  The genre hasn't spawned
a purer example of mankind in its L.A. incarnation than Elvis. When
friends visit, he puts salmon and eggplant on the grill.  His wise-cracks
usually include a movie reference. His detecting skill is always ready
to be called on.  But why make a big deal of it?

In "Lullaby Town," Elvis is hired by a film director to find his ex-wife
and child; the search leads to rural Connecticut and into the heart of a
Manhattan mob family.  Shivering in the cold and wincing at the filth,
Elvis is unable to understand why anyone puts up with life in the North-
east.  But he gets to the brutal heart of things in his own way, and he and
his ninja-style partner make an impressive team.  In terms of lethal effic-
iency, they're a match for the bullet-spraying East Coast goons.

Crais  has a reader-friendly style, and he's a meticulous craftsman; the
relaxed-seeming plot keeps paying off with scenes of surprising tension.
Supple and low key, he's actually far better at the private-eye-novel
racket than most  writers who make a loud point of being down and dirty.
He gets the job done without losing track of the pleasure.

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