Racing the Light – Robert Crais

Racing the Light is the 19th book in the Elvis Cole/ Joe Pike series (including a couple of Pike stand alones).

Elvis and Pike have been one of the best duos (alongside, in my opinion, Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard and Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and Win) in crime fiction for years – the smart ass PI and the deadly, monosyllabic ex-military sidekick.

There’s always a danger that after such a lengthy run there’s either the fatigue of repetition or the need to continuously up the ante which can result in a staleness to the characters and the plot becoming a distant second. I can’t be the only one who has loved the first few books in a series and felt by number five onwards in the series it’s either pastiche or recycling. During their adventures Elvis and Pike, together or individually, have fought against bank robbers, serial killers, protection gangs, home invaders, hired killers and cartels…and during that time they’ve been shot, stabbed, mauled, and multiple breaks of limbs and hearts.  I’ve never felt the Elvis and Pike series have reached either, but like any long running series it’s only to be expected that some worked better for me than others.

We all have the authors we have on pre-order: who we’ll buy on well-earned trust. I can think of five, maybe six, and Crais has been there for a long time, so I’m pleased to say Racing the Light, was for me, the best in the series since, perhaps 2005’s Shamus nominated ‘The Forgotten Man’. The novel felt like a return to its earlier roots in some ways:

So, the plot (and once again, I’ll got for the official line, as people paid to do this do it so much better than me:

Adele Schumacher isn’t a typical worried mum. When she hires Elvis to find her missing son, a controversial podcaster named Josh Shoe, she brings a bag filled with cash, paranoid tales of government conspiracies, and a squad of mysterious bodyguards. Finding Josh should be simple, but Elvis quickly learns he isn’t alone in the hunt – a team of deadly strangers are determined to find Josh first.

With dangerous secrets lurking behind every lead, Elvis needs his friend Joe Pike more than ever to uncover the truth about Josh, corrupt politicians, and the murderous business cartels rotting the heart of Los Angeles. And when his estranged ex-girlfriend Lucy Chenier and her son return to the city, Elvis realizes just how much he has to lose . . . if he survives.

Yep – we’re in classic Elvis Cole country: what seems a minor, potentially paranoid, case escalates as he does what he does best, annoying the wrong people and going beyond his brief, as he finds there’s more to the case than he originally thought.

It took me back in some ways to earlier books in the series – while Pike is an important factor in the story, he is undoubtedly a secondary character here. I think Pike is one of the best characters around, but I have no problem with him being, to some degree, in the background. There’s the return of some other important series characters here – but no spoilers.

Plot wise the novel is vintage Crais: he’s not one for the twist turns and whodunnit it of, say, a Jeffrey Deaver, and readers familiar with his work wouldn’t expect it. Instead, he writes fast-paced action, zippy dialogue and characters we just love to spend time with.

It’s good to be back in the company of Cole and Pike after a few years away and it took me back to my earliest encounters of The Monkey’s Raincoat or Stalking the Angel in that I read it in one sitting – always a good sign.


Racing the Light is available now in Paperback, Audio and Kindle from Simon and Schuster UK.

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