Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Two Minute Rule

Robert Crais is best known for his series featuring L.A. private-eye Elvis Cole and Cole's partner, the inscrutable Joe Pike. But while I like those books, this stand-alone, originally published in 2006, remains my favorite of Crais's novels.

Two thugs named Marchenko and Parsons are stricly amateur, if brutal, bank robbers. They do not know the Two Minute Rule, which holds that a robber only has a two minute window to be in and out of a bank before the law is almost certainly going to be on the scene. The two get lucky long enough to score almost $17 million in a string of robberies, but their luck runs out when they walk out of their last bank into a hail of police bullets.

Max Holman is, or was, a professional bank robber who knew and scrupulously observed the Two Minute Rule. But in a moment of weakness, he broke the rule and was arrested in the middle of a robbery by a team led by FBI agent, Katherine Pollard. Ten years down the road, Max is finally being released from prison and his dream is to be reconciled with his son, Richie, who in rejecting his father has gone all the way in the other direction to become an L.A. cop.

Just as Max is being processed out, though, he receives the worst possible news imaginable: Richie has been murdered, along with three other police officers. The detectives investigating the killings quickly pin the crime on a gangbanger who then conveniently commits suicide, closing the case--at least as far as the cops are concerned.

A devastated Max, thinks the whole package is all too neat. His cursory inspection of the murder site convinces him that the killings could not have occurred as the police have theorized and he is determined to find the truth. For help, he turns to Katherine Pollard, the agent who arrested him. Pollard has left the Bureau and is now a widow with two small children. Reluctantly, she agrees to assist Max and it quickly becomes apparent that their efforts to discover what really happened the night of the murders is stirring up the proverbial hornets' nest. The cops and the Feebs insist that Max and Pollard step down and accept the police version of the crime. When the two refuse to do so, they suddenly find themselves in very grave danger with no apparent way out.

This is a book with well-developed characters and a fast-paced plot that seems perfectly believable. Readers who have enjoyed Crais's Cole/Pike books will certainly want to look for this one.(

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