Bad guys, beware

I can’t keep up with the peripatetic Bob Moyer as he travels hither and yon, going to exotic places and doing interesting things, but I’m always glad when he finds time to send a book review.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

A DANGEROUS MAN. By Robert Crais. Putnam. 339 pages. $28.

Joe Pike is indeed A Dangerous Man — to criminals. Just minutes after a bank teller flirts with him, he watches her being pulled into a car and kidnapped: “The corner of Joe’s mouth ticked. Once.” Poor bad guys. Within minutes, they are pulled out of their car, flat on the ground, waiting for the police to arrive. The girl says she has no idea why they want to kidnap her, and Joe believes her. Shortly after they are released from jail, however, the kidnappers are murdered. Someone wants them shut up, and Joe wants to know why. So he calls on his partner, Elvis Cole.

Elvis is not A Dangerous Man. He’s a wiseass. When his line of investigation crosses that of the U.S. marshals, a passel of them pile into his office. Undaunted, he announces “Thank you all for coming. Meeting’s adjourned.” Neither the marshals nor the L.A. Police are amused by Elvis, who always seems to be one step ahead of them in the intersecting cases of a dead retired marshal and a twenty-something bank cashier.

Robert Crais works his magic here, as Elvis trolls through high school yearbooks, interviews with a drunken jewelry storeowner and an old whistle-blower case. Meanwhile, Joe tries to protect the girl, but she disappears. Someone on the end of a phone line talking to someone in L.A. really wants her. Crais moves between the page-turning action of Joe’s search for the girl and the slow reveal of information from Elvis that keeps us interested. It’s a fine balancing act, and it’s teamwork that carries the narrative to a happy conclusion. It’s also safe to say that right up to the last page Joe Pike proves to be A Dangerous Man — for the criminals.

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