Publication: 14 June from Simon & Schuster UK
Seventeen-year-old Tyson is a normal teenage boy – he’s socially awkward, obsessed with video games, and always hungry. But his mother is worried that her sweet, nerdy son has started to change… and she’s just found a $40,000 Rolex watch under his bed. Suddenly very frightened that Tyson has gotten involved in something illegal, his mother gets in touch with a private investigator named Elvis Cole and asks him to do some digging.
Cole uncovers a connection between Tyson and eighteen unsolved burglaries in LA’s ritziest neighbourhood. Tyson spooks and runs.
And then people start dying…
Robert Crais is one of those authors I just can’t help coming back to. Elvis Cole and Jo Pickett are protagonists of the top notch class. The Wanted is primarily Elvis Cole, with a smattering of Pickett’s muscle thrown in for added backup and a bit of manly hugging.
We are in L.A. and 17 year old Tyson Connor is proving to be quite the worry for his mother, Devon. Tyson has been coming home with luxury accessories, such as a Rolex chronograph, which he claims is a knock off, and designer clothing worth a small fortune. His mother is really worried. Tyson has been hanging out with some new kids and she knows that whatever he’s been up to, it can’t be good.
Cole tries to allay her fears but also points out to her that maybe hiring a P.I. isn’t the way to deal with her errant son; however he does offer to at least find out if Tyson is into something bad.
It does not take a great deal of sleuthing to find out that the Rolex was part of a burglary haul that is tied into a series of house breakings in the wealthy suburbs of L.A. It’s clear that Tyson is one of the perpetrators along with a disturbed young woman, Amber Read and an actor turned busboy, Alec Riley.
Cole sets Tyson’s mother up with a lawyer and arranges that she will hand in her son to the police in the hopes that a confession and restitution of the stolen goods will prompt an easier first time offence sentence.
Ah, if only life were as simple. It turns out that the cops are not the only people hunting these house breakers; a couple of heavies named Harvey and Stemms are also on their trail and not because they want to hand them over to the police. In fact, they’re not beyond impersonating police officers if it gets them to the kids before the cops.
Crais is a writer who always likes to delve into the psyche of his characters. We learn quite a lot about the partnership of Harvey and Stemms, our assassins, from musical tastes to the closeness of their friendship. We are privy to a deal more about them than just the normal bull headed hit men perspective.
Cassett and Rivera are the cops tasked with finding the house breakers and recovering the loot. As the victims are all well-heeled and well connected, the pressure is on from above to solve this case in a hurry and catch the bad guys. They, in turn, put pressure on Cole to tell them what he knows.
The more Cole finds out, the more concerned he becomes about what these kids have got themselves into, and when one of them is murdered, Cole must bring in Joe Pike to make sure he can safeguard Tyson and Amber as well as figuring out who has hired Harvey and Stemms and what it is that they want.
In Cole, Crais has created a terrifically human, warm and charismatic character whose wit and charm get him a long way with both cops and villains. It is this richness and depth of character that makes Cole such a beguiling protagonist.
In The Wanted he builds up his storyline into a tense and multi-layered narrative with characters whose feelings you come to respect and understand. The dialogue is sharp and witty and the plot though straightforward is sufficiently nail biting to keep the reader engrossed. Crais shows here that he can delve into emotional and difficult relationships, especially those between parents and children, and that those are relationships that resonate more deeply with the sardonic Cole than we may have hitherto imagined. On that level, this is a more thoughtful, and more pained Cole than we have become used to.
It is perhaps not the best of Crais, but even then it is better than most and I for one will keep coming back to Elvis Cole for as long as Crais wants to keep writing him.
Verdict: Elvis Cole is still one cool dude.
About Robert Crais
Robert Crais is the author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels. A native of Louisiana, he grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River in a blue collar family of oil refinery workers and police officers. He purchased a secondhand paperback of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister when he was fifteen, which inspired his lifelong love of writing, Los Angeles, and the literature of crime fiction. Other literary influences include Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Robert B. Parker, and John Steinbeck.
After years of amateur film-making and writing short fiction, he journeyed to Hollywood in 1976 where he quickly found work writing scripts for such major television series as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, and Miami Vice, as well as numerous series pilots and Movies-of-the-Week for the major networks. He received an Emmy nomination for his work on Hill Street Blues, but is most proud of his 4-hour NBC miniseries, Cross of Fire, which the New York Times declared: “A searing and powerful documentation of the Ku Klux Klan’s rise to national prominence in the 20s.”
In the mid-eighties, feeling constrained by the collaborative working requirements of Hollywood, Crais resigned from a lucrative position as a contract writer and television producer in order to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a novelist. His first efforts proved unsuccessful, but upon the death of his father in 1985, Crais was inspired to create Elvis Cole, using elements of his own life as the basis of the story. The resulting novel, The Monkey’s Raincoat, won the Anthony and Macavity Awards and was nominated for the Edgar Award. It has since been selected as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers AssociationThe novels of Robert Crais have been published in 62 countries and are bestsellers around the world. Robert Crais received the Ross Macdonald Literary Award in 2006 and was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2014.
Currently, Robert Crais lives in the Santa Monica mountains with his wife, two cats, and many thousands of books.