Elvis Cole dwells in the past in this, Robert Crais' 10th novel featuring the "world's greatest detective". And while Crais' readers love the wise-cracking detective, many of us read the series as much for Joe Pike, his scary, warrior-like back up system. Tough turn, then, that Pike is merely an afterthought in this book.
Taking up much of the slack is Carol Starkey, the alcoholic, former bomb-squad detective who starred in Crais' "Demolition Angel" and met up with Elvis in "The Last Detective". Carol's having strong romantic feelings for Elvis, but he's not ready for a new love yet, still licking his wounds from the breakup with former paramour Lucy and her son Ben, who appear briefly.
The story allows the reader to break into the murky past of Elvis, when a man is shot, who has been looking for his son. As a child, Elvis was on an endless quest to discover the identity of his father; his mother suffered from an emotional disorder and his grandparents could hardly restrain his need to wander, to try to find himself. He's had a rough childhood, and the possibility that the dead man is his father draws him out of a depression and into the mainstream of the police investigation. During the track of the novel, a character named Frederick, a paranoid schizophrenic, lurks in the background, convinced that Cole was responsible for the death of his friend Payne.
As his search for the truth about the dead man evolves, Cole starts to shed light on a cold case, rediscovering his power to energetically pursue answers as he buries himself in his work. A little oblivious to Starkey's feelings, Cole is nevertheless drawn to her by mutual need on the case, and by the recognition that she's another tortured soul. Elvis may be the wittiest of today's detectives in this genre, but Crais proves here that he's not just witty, lucky and likeable, he's also the product of his past.
Although "The Forgotten Man" is not nearly the book "The Last Detective" was, Crais continues to disarm his readers and keeps the series alive.
There's some complexity here, and some surprises at the end, and Crais fans will be begging for more Elvis Cole when the story concludes. For my money, any real 5 star Elvis Cole story will also bring more action and reaction with the inclusion of the volatile Joe Pike in the story.
Recommended for fans who like their thrillers in series, but read the earlier books first.