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on 6 June 2000
A young lady comes to Elvis Cole for help, she is worried about her police partner Thurman. Crais explores the gang land underworld and dives into the tricky area of corrupt policing and blackmail. A great read, I read it in a day. Robert Crais really is a superb author whose simplistic, entertaining style makes reading a joy.
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on 12 June 2000
Elvis Cole, is just my kind of PI, he's funny and sarcastic. Robert Crais writes a very good story, and although this is only my second of his novels, I have thoroughly enjoyed them both and will be investing in the rest of the series.
The stories are never gory, but they are touching and the action is always dramatic. You become very fond of Elvis and his side-kick Joe Pike (the man of few words and the occasional lip twitch)
He writes in a similar way to Micheal Connely's 'Harry Bosch' series, but Crais has more humour.
I read this book in 2 sittings and I really enjoyed it. I recommend it to all PI fans and definately to Connelly fans.
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on 19 May 2001
I am a great fan of Grisham and Connelly, and was unsure if Robert Crais would measure up. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I read my first Elvis Cole thriller. Crais has developed a fantastic character in Cole - he is sharp, likeable and possesses a dry humour which very much adds to the storyline. He is complemented well by his partner Joe Pike, whose image also raised a few laughs throughout the book. If you enjoy a good thriller without having to analyse the book too much, then I would highly recommend Robert Crais. I will be reading more!
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on 27 February 2006
Elvis Cole cracks me up! A woman wants him to investigate her boyfriend, who happens to be a member of the LAPD’s elite REACT squad. The trails leads to South Central L.A. where Elvis must deftly navigate through gangland. I enjoyed every minute of this book. Crais’ pace is right on target and every touch of humor is refreshing. I liked this better than Crais' first book, "The Monkey's Raincoat."
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I am a fan of Robert Crais' work, but this sums up his talents in the one book. Fast paced, complex story and with the snappy dialogue we have come to expect from Crais.

Elvis Cole is a sucker for a hard luck story, so he takes a case from a Police officer's wife. She is concerned about his behaviour, but what seems like an easy case brings Cole and partner Pike up against an elite Police team, black gangs and the more they dig the more trouble they end up in...

Read in two sittings, this is a page turner and a delight. Crais fans will love this and for anyone wondering what the fuss is about, this would be the perfect entry level book into the world of Cole and Pike.
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When I first tried the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels almost 15 years ago, I stopped after the dark second book in the series. Now that I’ve pushed past that, I’m finding I’m enjoying my visits with these characters. Free Fall is the fourth book in the series, and it’s another good mystery.

It’s a pleasant spring day when Jennifer Sheridan walks into Elvis Cole’s PI office. She is concerned about her boyfriend. They’ve been together for years, but suddenly Mark Thurman is hiding something from her, and she’s afraid he’s been involved in a crime. Since he’s a police officer, Jennifer wants Cole to look into it.

Cole initially finds a simple, obvious, and believable explanation. However, Jennifer just isn’t buying it. She convinces Cole to look again, and he begins to find things that point to Mark being in serious trouble. What has Mark gotten himself into? Can Cole and his partner Joe Pike get him out of it?

The book was first published in 1993, in the shadow of the Rodney King trial. It’s interesting to look back at that considering the issue is back in the news today. It’s also interesting realizing just how much our lives have changed in some other ways in the last 20+ years. In the age before wide spread internet and cell phone use, investigations happened differently.

Those elements aside, this is an interesting case, and watching it unfold kept me quite entertained. There are some surprises, both good and bad, along the way, and the stakes keep going up for Elvis, Joe, Jennifer, Mark, and the others in the book. I was left wondering just how things would be resolved until the very end.

There aren’t too many recurring characters in this series, so the focus is on the new ones. They are all sharp, and I liked watching them and our opinions of them develop along the way. Elvis is a good main character, and I love spending time with him, which is important since he narrates the book first person.

Of course, I do have to issue my normal complaint. Joe Pike still comes across more as a superhero deus ex machina than a real character. This also cuts down on the suspense in a few scenes. Oh, and I really don’t want to ride in the car with author Robert Crais. He must drive like a maniac given some of the travel times he gives for his characters in this book.

The book has more language than I would normally read, although I didn’t feel it got gratuitous given the characters involved. Likewise, the violence is more graphic than I would normally read but fits the PI genre perfectly. These are issues to note if you tend to stick to the cozy end of the spectrum like I do, but they didn’t lower my enjoyment of the book.

Once again, I listened to the audio version with Mel Foster as the narrator. He continues to do a wonderful job bringing the characters and story to life without getting in the way of the events.

So if you’ve overlooked the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels, go back and give them a chance. Now that I’ve finished Free Fall, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to this duo next.
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on 23 May 2013
Synopsis/blurb....
Elvis Cole is just a detective who can't say no, especially to a girl in a terrible fix. And Jennifer Sheridan qualifies. Her fiance, Mark Thurman, is a decorated LA cop with an elite plainclothes unit, but Jennifer is sure he's in trouble - the kind of serious trouble that only Cole can get him out of. Five minutes after his new client leaves the office, Cole and his partner, the enigmatic Joe Pike, are hip-deep in a deadly situation as they plummet into a world of South Central gangs, corrupt cops and conspiracies of silence. And before long, every cop in the LAPD is gunning for a pair of armed and dangerous killers - Cole and Pike.

In this 4th instalment of Crais's series with Elvis Cole and his enigmatic sidekick Joe Pike, the dynamic duo cross swords with an elite unit of the LAPD who have crossed the line. Engaged by Jennifer Sheridan to find out exactly what is troubling her cop boyfriend, the pair come up against a former colleague of Pike from his police days. After ignoring the warnings to drop the case, Cole's digging ties the cop unit to a South Central gang-lord and the death of a black suspect during one of the unit's sting operations in an LA pawn shop.

Violence, gun-play, drugs, gangs, race issues, corrupt cops, broken families, anger management, intimidation and fear all figure in this tale.

Just shy of 300 pages long, I read this in a day over the weekend. I was reminded a bit of Robert B. Parker's creation Spencer. Cole has the same wise-cracking attitude that thankfully stops just short of irritating. I stuck with Spencer for around 20 books before tiring of him. This series if you include the later books that seem to figure Pike as the protagonist runs to around 15 or 16. There's nothing yet to suggest that I won't last the pace. Perhaps if Cole was a little less savvy, a little less understanding, a little less moral and a little more imperfect, I would like him a little more.

Fast-paced and enjoyable, so I'll be back with the 5th next month.

4 from 5

I bought my copy new many years ago, possibly from the now defunct Murder One bookshop in London, seeing as it was a US paperback.
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on 12 June 2011
Clearly the inspiration for this book was based on the Rodney King police brutality situation in LA circa 1991.
The story kicks off with an attractive young woman (Jennifer Sheridan) getting in touch with Elvis Cole as she has concerns about her long time "SWAT" Team boyfriend (Mark Thurman).
At face value her concerns seem unwarranted but Elvis develops a soft spot for Jennifer and keeps digging for a $40 up-front-fee and $40 a month thereafter!.
It's not long before Joe Pike gets involved and it soon becomes clear that there are cover-ups involving dirty cops, conspiracies of silence and the murky underworld of South Central gangs that is LA.
Given my comments about Rodney King, the suspicious death of black man who owns a pawnbroker shop gives rise to a litany of potential scenarios.
Some centre on the "Bad Lieutenant" syndrome.
The elements of Crais's intereptration of the black underworld are well intentioned and he tries to be evenhanded but it's a bit like your Mum or Dad trying to be cool!!
Back to the plot before long, every cop in the LAPD is gunning for a pair of armed and dangerous killers which turn out to be Cole and Pike!
It's a relatively short book and if you like Cole and Pike then you'll enjoy this book enormously.
My only critisicsm is that although Crais tries to balance the racial tensions of that time quite well, I found some of his jive talking a bit contrived.
A great holiday read and a great way to get into Cole and Pike.
As an aside, for those new to Crais, the character of Joe Pike is developed much more in books like The Watchman which turn his seemingly one-dimensional character into something which has far more depth.
Elvis Cole is a terrific character who combines serious detecting with great sleuthing.
For feline lovers he also owns a cat!
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If you have yet to begin the marvelous Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais, you've got a great treat ahead of you! Few series get off to a stronger start than Mr. Crais did with The Monkey's Raincoat, which won both the Anthony and Macavity awards for best novel while being nominated for the Edgar and Shamus awards as well. Stalking the Angel followed powerfully with classic noir style of the 1930s hard-boiled detective up against evil, but moderated with wise cracks. And the books just keep getting better from there in their characterizations, action, story-telling and excitement.
Elvis Cole is the star attraction, the co-owner of The Elvis Cole Detective Agency. He's now 38, ex-Army, served in Vietnam, ex-security guard, has two years of college, learned to be a detective by working under George Feider, a licensed P.I. for over 40 years, does martial arts as enthusiastically as most people do lunch, and is fearless but not foolish. He's out to right the wrongs of the world as much as he is to earn a living. Elvis has a thing for Disney characters (including a Pinocchio clock), kids, cats, scared clients and rapid fire repartee. He drives a Jamaica yellow 1966 Corvette Stingray convertible, and usually carries a .38 Special Dan Wesson.
His main foil is partner, Joe Pike, an ex-Marine, ex-cop who moves quietly and mysteriously wearing shades even in the dark . . . when he's not scaring the bad guys with the red arrows tattooed on his deltoids, which are usually bare in sleeveless shirts. Although he's got an office with Elvis, Pike spends all of his time at his gun shop when not routing the bad guys with martial arts while carrying and often using enough firepower to stop a tank. Pike rarely speaks . . . and never smiles. A standing gag is trying to catch Pike with a little twitch of his lips indicating he might possibly be amused. But he's there when you need him. He drives a red Jeep.
Robert Parker's Spenser is the obvious character parallel for Elvis, but Spenser and Elvis are different in some ways. Cole is more solitary, usually being alone when he's not working. Cole is very much L.A. and Spenser is ultra blue collar Boston. Cole is martial arts while Spenser boxes and jogs. What they have in common is that they're both out to do the right thing, with money being unimportant. They both love to crack wise as they take on the bad guys. The bad guys hate the "humor" in both cases, and can't do much about it. The dialogue written for each is intensely rich.
Mr. Crais has a special talent for making you care about his characters, especially the clients and their kids. You'll want to know what happens to them. With a lot of experience in script writing, Mr. Crais also knows how to set the scene physically and make you feel it. He may be out finest fiction writer about physical movement. He gives you all the clues to picture what's going on . . . but draws back from giving so much detail that you can't use your own imagination to make things better.
I grew up near Los Angeles, and get a special pleasure out of reading his descriptions of the differences in cities, neighborhoods, and buildings in the area. He gets in right . . . and in detail. It's a nice touch!
On to Lullaby Town, the third book in the series. The title refers to the peddler who sells dreams in Lullaby Town. In our case, it's Hollywood.
The peddler in the story is Peter Alan Nelson, a motion picture director dubbed as the King of Adventure by Time magazine (think Steven Spielberg and George Lucas wrapped up into one hyper personality), which also called him "arrogant, brilliant, demanding." In real life, he has the maturity of a male 2 year old, and has worse habits. Elvis is hired to find Nelson's ex-wife and child so Nelson can form a relationship with his son, whom he's ignored virtually from birth. The studio doesn't want Nelson distracted by all this yearning for his son because he's due to start a new movie in three weeks.
Elvis has no trouble finding the ex and the son. They've left a trail a mile wide across the country to Connecticut where Nelson's mousy young wife has turned herself into a successful banker who doesn't want to hear anything from Nelson. At this point, Elvis's job would amount to bringing them all together gently . . . except that the ex, who now calls herself Karen Lloyd, has a little problem with the biggest crime family in the East. Elvis and Joe set out to eliminate the little problem and are tested to the limits of their talents.
The story develops rapidly in small segments from quite different perspectives, usually in chapters of 4-5 pages in length, like a scene in a drama. Each change adds to a mosaic portrait of the characters and the overall situation. So the story moves fast . . . but without leaving you behind. There is enough material in this book to make two novels.
Pay particular attention to the evolution of characters of Karen Lloyd and Peter Alan Nelson. Mr. Crais does a nice job of helping you realize many sides of their characters over a period of about 10 years. That's one quality that makes this book compelling reading.
After you finish the book, you might find it helpful to think about the potential downside of possessing all that you dream of having.
Can you select better dreams to turn into reality?
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If you have yet to begin the marvelous Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais, you've got a great treat ahead of you! Few series get off to a stronger start than Mr. Crais did with The Monkey's Raincoat, which won both the Anthony and Macavity awards for best novel while being nominated for the Edgar and Shamus awards as well. Stalking the Angel followed powerfully with classic noir style of the 1930s hard-boiled detective up against evil moderated with wise cracks. Lullaby Town brought Hollywood-oriented detective fiction into the 1990s with style and grace. And the books just keep getting better from there in their characterizations, action, story-telling and excitement.
Elvis Cole is the star attraction, the co-owner of The Elvis Cole Detective Agency. He's now 39, ex-Army, served in Vietnam, ex-security guard, has two years of college, learned to be a detective by working under George Feider, a licensed P.I. for over 40 years, does martial arts as enthusiastically as most people do lunch, and is fearless but not foolish. He's out to right the wrongs of the world as much as he is to earn a living. Elvis has a thing for Disney characters (including a Pinocchio clock), kids, cats, scared clients and rapid fire repartee. He drives a Jamaica yellow 1966 Corvette Stingray convertible, and usually carries a Dan Wesson .38 Special.
His main foil is partner, Joe Pike, an ex-Marine, ex-cop who moves quietly and mysteriously wearing shades even in the dark . . . when he's not scaring the bad guys with the red arrows tattooed on his deltoids, which are usually bare in sleeveless shirts. Although he's got an office with Elvis, Pike spends all of his time at his gun shop when not routing the bad guys with martial arts while carrying and often using enough firepower to stop a tank. Pike rarely speaks . . . and never smiles. A standing gag is trying to catch Pike with a little twitch of his lips indicating he might possibly be amused. But he's there when you need him. He drives a spotless red Jeep.
Robert Parker's Spenser is the obvious character parallel for Elvis, but Spenser and Elvis are different in some ways. Cole is more solitary, usually being alone when he's not working. Cole is very much L.A. and Spenser is ultra blue collar Boston. Cole is martial arts while Spenser boxes and jogs. What they have in common is that they're both out to do the right thing, with money being unimportant. They both love to crack wise as they take on the bad guys. The dialogue written for each is intensely rich.
Mr. Crais has a special talent for making you care about his characters, especially the clients and their loved ones. You'll want to know what happens to them. With a lot of experience in script writing, Mr. Crais also knows how to set the scene physically and make you feel it. He may be out finest fiction writer about physical movement.
I grew up near Los Angeles, and get a special pleasure out of reading his descriptions of the differences in cities, neighborhoods, and buildings in the area. He gets in right . . . and in detail. It's a nice touch!
On to Free Fall, the fourth book in the series. The title refers to what happens when you slip over the side of the high cliff of ambition and probity. As much as I liked the first three books in the series, Free Fall exceeds them.
The person in free fall is Mark Thurman, the newest member of a REACT team, plainclothes police who "monitor career criminals and try to stop them before they hurt people." His team is assigned to one of the toughest areas, the seventy-seventh division in south central Los Angeles while drugs and drive-by shootings are common forms of "entertainment." Something has gone wrong with Thurman, and his fiancée, Jennifer Sheridan, wants Elvis to find out what. She offers $40 a month for the next 50 months to cover Elvis's fee, and he graciously accepts.
Jennifer is barely out of the office when Thurman and his clod of a partner, Floyd Riggens, show up. They try convincing Elvis that Thurman has a new girl friend and hasn't told Jennifer yet. They want Elvis to butt out. Why are they going to so much trouble? Surely, there are criminals for them to be tailing rather than Jennifer.
Despite evidence Elvis finds that Thurman is messing around with another woman, Jennifer believes that he still loves her. Having known Thurman for many years, she knows he must be desperate to pretend to be having an affair. She convinces Elvis to dig deeper. What he finds are out-of-control cops, nasty criminals, and extreme danger that touches all those who are connected to them.
As the story develops, Jennifer and Mark find themselves and their love tested beyond what they would have thought possible while Elvis and Joe struggle to help them keep their heads above water.
To me, this story is a monument to the fine Joseph Wambaugh novels about the police, updated to the current time. Any fan of his will love this book.
Although this is a crime and detection novel, it's also a story about love and commitment. I don't remember another book that develops all of those dimensions nearly as well. Unlike his earlier novels where the female characters grow while the male characters stagnate or make slower emotional progress, both Mark and Jennifer develop as people making the story a fuller and more rewarding one for the reader.
After you finish the book, you might find it helpful to think about the dangers you will encounter in order to live your dreams.
Can you physically and emotionally handle those dangers when they arise?
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