From: James R. Winter ( winter_writes@earthlink.net)
Date: 29 Sep 2005

This one is Crais's New York novel, though the title refers two Chelam, Connecticutt, where Elvis winds up.

Elvis is hired this time to find the ex-wife of Peter Alan Nelsen, "the King of Adventure." Nelsen is basically a big 14-year-old with a fat bank account and every studio in Hollywood kissing his ass to keep his childhood going on forever and ever. Whatever Peter Alan Nelsen wants, Peter Alan Nelsen gets, because, after all, he's Peter Alan Nelsen, #3 behind Speilberg and Lucas among directors. (Obviously, this is before the STAR WARS prequels.) Elvis doesn't cotton to Peter (initials PAN. Hmm...), which only makes Nelsen trust him more. He wants Elvis to find the ex-wife and son he abandoned when he was just Pete Nelsen, film school wash-out.

Elvis finds her, living under the name Karen Lloyd in Chelam, CT, a town so bucolic it's probably subsidized by postcard photos. It's your typical small town on the fringes of a major urban center, the urban center being New York City. Karen's made a new life for herself and her son. She's a bank vice president, a former PTA chair, and a real estate agent. He watches Karen for a couple of days and discovers she has a problem. The mob, it turns out, helped her turn things around from being the struggling, broke actress from LA. So when Elvis confronts her, he offers to find her a way out before letting Peter Alan Nelsen know where she lives.

He confronts Charlie DeLuca, a mob underboss so psychotic he makes John Gotti look like Mister Rogers. DeLuca is using Karen to launder money. And when they go over DeLuca's deposits, it turns out he's doing it behind his father's back. Charlie's fallen in with the Jamaicans (the heavies in another novel, DEEP SHAKER, which I'll review next) in a scheme to rob the other mob families. In comes Joe Pike, who manages to do what Pike does best. Elvis finds a way to get Karen off the hook when who should a appear to screw things up but...

Peter Alan Nelsen.

And because he's Peter Alan Nelsen, he and his entourage butt in like the proverbial bull in a China shop. Bullet-laiden hilarity ensues, and of course, Elvis and Joe have to clean up the mess.

It's a Cole novel, and being pre-LA REQUIEM, I can sort of see how it's going to end. Fortunately, Crais makes sure the story is shaken and stirred every few chapters so you have to work to that end. And there are consequences for the inevitable shoot out with the bad guys, smoothed over by Rollie George, a former cop turned Mafia thriller writer. Rollie's got connections with the cops. And he likes Elvis and Joe. Why? A cop named Joe Pike killed the men who shot Rollie and killed his wife. I'd have liked to have seen more of Rollie. He's worth his own book or two. Great supporting character.

Peter Alan Nelsen is very well-done. An overgrown adolescent, he blunders into Cole's violent world, takes a bullet, and realizes maybe it's time he grew up. I especially like his fondness for Cole due to Elvis' refusal to kiss his ass. Sycophants, let's face it, probably annoy the people they suck up to worse than the rest of us. Elvis was a refreshing change

The one thing that rubbed me the wrong way was Manhattan. Reading a lot of Manhattan novels and knowing a lot of New Yorkers and, especially, having been to New York, I found Elvis and Joe's ease in driving around the city less than believeable. Scudder always rented a car to leave the city, and I'm currently reading Jason Starr's TWISTED CITY. All subways and cabs. Cars, even though there are too many of them on the streets there, don't ring right for me in Manhattan. I can't imagine a tourist (having been one there) rolling up to a building or - entering the realm of urban legend - finding a parking garage quickly there. OTOH, Crais is a creature of LA (and the other La as well, being Lousianna.) I suppose it's nearly impossible for someone in Los Angeles to imagine not having a car or getting to where you want to go quickly.

Over all, though, a solid offering. Crais plays with the cliches a little. Cole and Pike are observers in a drama not of their making. Cole cracks wise to move things along. Pike never takes off the sunglasses. They just push the buttons and make things happen.

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Winter

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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