Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Promise - Robert Crais

First line: "The woman stood in the far corner of the dimly lit room, hiding in shadows like a fish in gray water."

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike join forces with Robert Crais' Suspect hero team of Scott James and Maggie for The Promise, which is packed with action and suspense, as well as love and devotion.

Cole is hired by Meryl Lawrence to find her colleague Amy Breslyn.  Breslyn took an abrupt leave of absence and just disappeared, vanished. According to Lawrence, Breslyn also walked off with over $400,000 from their company, and she wants to find her co-worker before the powers that be discover the missing money. Lawrence says she feels responsible because she believes Breslyn took off with a crooked mystery man she met online; She claims she pressured Breslyn into online dating after her son was killed overseas by a suicide bomber.

Lawrence encourages Cole to track down a young man named Thomas Lerner, a close friend of Breslyn's son. When Cole shows up at the address Lawrence gives him for Lerner, all hell breaks loose, but none of it connected to anyone named Thomas Lerner. What is at the house is a dead body and serious bomb munitions. Elvis Cole suddenly finds himself in the midst of a major crime investigation as well as his own missing person's case that is racking up more questions than answers. And when the heat rises, he calls in the reinforcements.

The Promise took a while to hit the bookstores, but now that it's here, I can say with certainty it was worth the wait.  This complex plot contains all the hallmarks of a great Crais novel: humor, social issues, passion, crack dialogue and top-notch characters. Relationships maintain a central focus of the series; Elvis and Joe's relationship continues to grow, but it takes more of a backseat role in The Promise, allowing Crais to explore Scott and Maggie's pack bonds further as well as Amy Breslyn's relationship with her son. Plus, it seems there may possibly be a new romantic connection blooming for the series.

In addition to the themes surrounding relationships, there is a strong idea of hidden identities. People aren't necessarily who they seem and situations aren't what they seem, which of course works to ramp up the suspense, but it also illustrates a depth of character for several people. One of those folks is Jon Stone. There aren't a lot of the familiar faces in this novel, but Jon Stone returns in arguably his best outing yet. If you didn't love Stone before The Promise, I dare you not to after this one.

And of course the title theme, promises. Promises carry a lot of weight and obligation with them. Those with the strongest character wield their promises carefully, honestly and unceasingly.

Crais has a history of wonderful female characters, but The Promise may include the cream of the crop. I was especially taken with Amy Breslyn's character.  She's described as "small, round, and dumpy...she'd never been a looker." Despite not having a stereotypical hero exterior, this smart, single mother stole the show for me. I don't expect to see her back in anything beyond a possible cameo but I sure wouldn't complain if she did reemerge in later books.

And of course Maggie. Crais' treatment of Maggie's role in The Promise is reverential. And it's his attention to the small details, like the green tennis ball, that make his depiction of her so superb. Early in the novel, Crais creates mirroring scenes of handler and dog experiencing PTSD dreams. In Maggie's dream, she experiences memories through scent and is haunted by the emotions those scents conjure up. Just as Scott cries out in his terror dreams, Maggie does too. Crais uses that opportunity to provide subtle background from Suspect, but it serves an even greater role in illustrating the strong devotion and connection Maggie has with her "pack."  Dog lovers should all appreciate the care Crais takes in his development of this magnificent character.

All around The Promise is a winner of a novel. I've said this before and I'll say it again, I love this series--Crais' writing in general--and if the quality continues to stay at this level, I don't mind the wait between books. I'm happy to savor the exceptional story, and enjoy the experience. It's much more filling than mounds of junk.

The Promise is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780399161490) from Putnam and as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 9781455853359), narrated by Luke Daniels and MacLeod Andrews (holy cow, power team) from Brilliance Audio.

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