Devon Connor hires Elvis Cole because she’s found a Rolex and wads of cash under her teenaged son’s bed. Tyson Connor goes to a special school, has troubler socializing, is a gamer. But checking into the watch, Elvis soon discovers Tyson is part of a trio of kids robbing houses in wealthy LA neighbourhoods. Kids who aren’t too sharp about keeping their identities hidden. Which is a shame, because there are two other men after them, who want back something they’ve stolen. And these guys are not as kind nor gentle as Elvis Cole.
Robert Crais has written a pretty straight-forward thriller, with Elvis and Joe Pike working in a deadly race against a pair of cold-blooded killers, with the LAPD lurking somewhere off the pace as well. It’s fast-moving and beautifully constructed, and it works perfectly as a race against time and against villains.
But because it’s Crais, the novel is far more than that. Take the title. Yes, these kids are wanted, by the police, by Cole, by the criminals hunting them. But it’s also a story about kids and their parents, the kids who are wanted, like Tyson, and those who aren’t, like Amber, the would-be glamour girl who’s part of the burglary trio.
And because it’s Crais, the characters become people who involve the reader. It’s easy to take sides, to identify with the kids under pursuit, even with their flaws. It’s easy because Elvis Cole’s point of view has always been one of empathy, of compassion, of understanding, even when his understanding is incomplete. It’s where he differs somewhat from the police, and where he differs from the villains.
Though in this case, the pair of Harvey and Stemms are two of Crais’s most entertaining creations. They have the kind of insouciance and sarcastic world view that we remember from Elvis in his very early days, only the way it’s directed into the off-hand horrific is absolutely chilling.
A watch-craft plot moving smoothly on its gears. A tense chase and finish. Characters who make you care. And a pair of villains actors would metaphorically kill to play. Crais has not yet been served well by Hollywood, but if there were ever a novel that cries to be turned into a screenplay (and then have the producers butcher little things like character) this one is it. It reminds you just how good Robert Crais has been for how long. How good? One of the very best.
Wanted by Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster £14.99 ISBN 9781471157486
note: this review appeared first at Michael Carlson’s Irresistible Targets