In this novel, Robert Crais's long-time series protagonist, Elvis Cole, teams up with Scott James and his K-9 partner, Maggie, who were first introduced in Suspect. A woman named Meryl Lawrence hires Elvis, swearing him to unusually tight secrecy. She says she's worried about a woman named Amy Breslyn, who's missing from the firm where they both work and which produces classified explosive materials for the government. $460,000 dollars is also missing from Breslyn's department.
Breslyn's son, Jacob, a journalist, was recently killed by terrorists in Nigeria, and naturally, Breslin was devastated. Lawrence worries that Breslyn has fallen under the spell of a man named Charles who may have convinced Breslyn to steal the money. Lawrence wants to find Breslyn and get the money returned quietly, before Breslyn is caught by the authorities.
Lawrence can offer only one lead to help Cole get started. She gives him the address of a house in L.A.'s Echo Park. Jacob Breslyn's best friend lives or lived there recently, and the friend may be able to point Cole in the direction of Jacob's mother. But when Elvis arrives at the house, all hell breaks loose. Foul deeds are being consummated inside and the cops, including Scott James and Maggie, are arriving in force. Elvis finds himself in the middle of the chaos and catches a look at a suspect fleeing the scene.
From that point on, the book takes off like a rocket, and Elvis soon finds himself in the middle of a very dark conspiracy. The cops are all over him, but he is determined to protect his client and refuses to tell them what he knows. He effectively winds up running an investigation parallel to that of the authorities, and Scott James and his faithful K-9 companion wind up with a foot and a couple of paws in each camp.
It's a fun read, and you just have to surrender yourself to the ride and not stop to think too closely about what is actually going on. If I have any quibble with the book, it lies in the fact that the character of Elvis Cole is becoming increasingly divorced from reality. In the early novels in this series, he was a wise-cracking P.I. who investigated fairly normal cases and solved them in a reasonably rational way. Occasionally he needed a bit of extra muscle and so called on his mostly silent partner, Joe Pike. But the books were sufficiently anchored in the Real World that they did not overly strain credulity.
That's pretty much out the window now. While Cole remains a reasonably normal human being, at the drop of a hat he seems to be able to summon people to help who have powers beyond those of mere mortals. In this case, Pike is along for the ride, but Cole depends more on another ex-military guy named Jon Stone. Stone has contacts and technical skills far beyond those, apparently, of the LAPD, Homeland Security and other such organizations. At the drop of a hat, Cole can dial the phone and find someone who can instantly give him info that the cops and the Feds can't seem to find. After a while, if you pause to take a breath, you wind up shaking your head at the audacity of it all.
As I said, it was a fun read, but part of the fun was lost because of the increasingly implausibility of the action as the story went on. 3.5 stars for me, rounded up to 4.