The eighth entry in the Elvis Cole series is easily the best to date. It begins when Elvis's partner in the detective agency, Joe Pike, calls and asks for his help. Frank Garcia, a very wealthy and well-connected businessman, is an old friend of Joe's. Garcia's daughter Karen, who is thirty-two, has been missing for a little over twenty-four hours. Garcia has called the police but, not surprisingly, they aren't going to go looking for an adult that has been gone for barely a day. Garcia is worried sick, though. He knows his daughter and he knows that something has happened to her.
It turns out that, back when he was still a cop, Joe dated Karen Garcia, in the process breaking her heart. But he's still tight with the family and so there's no doubt that Joe and, by extension, Elvis, will immediately begin searching for Karen. Sadly, of course, it will turn out that Karen has been shot to death while out hiking, and Cole and Pike will now be trying to find her killer. The homicide detectives investigating the case are not at all happy about this; most of them either dislike or actively hate Pike because of the events that caused him to leave the department. But Garcia has enough political juice that the cops are forced to let the two into the investigation. Naturally, they will attempt to frustrate Cole and Pike at every turn.
This is a very complex plot with a lot of devious twists and turns. The most interesting aspect of the book, however, is that it offers readers of the series a deep dive into the personal history of Joe Pike. Up to now, Pike has been the strong, silent, almost super-hero sidekick who materializes every time it's necessary to bail Cole out of a tight spot. We've known little or nothing about him, save for the fact that he was a Vietnam vet, a former cop, and Cole's largely silent partner. This book, though, is as much Pike's as it is Cole's and Robert Crais has imagined a very unusual and interesting back story for the character. It also turns out that, up to now, Cole hasn't known much more about his partner than the reader.
Also central to the book is Cole's evolving relationship with his new love, Lucy Chenier. Lucy has just given up her life in Louisiana to move to L.A. with her young son in order to be with Cole. Cole is helping Lucy move into her new home when he gets the call from Pike, and their relationship will be sorely tested as the story moves along. As a reader, I'm still not sold on the character or the relationship with Cole. To me it seems more like a plot device than a genuine romantic attraction, and I couldn't get invested enough to care whether the relationship will survive or not.
This is an excellent crime novel, although I'm docking it half a star because I found the great reveal about the killer to be a bit of a stretch. Overall, though, I enjoyed it a great deal. 4.5 stars.