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Crais's latest L.A.-based crime novel featuring super-sleuth Elvis Cole blends high-powered action, a commanding cast and a touch of dark humor to excellent dramatic effect. One morning at four, Cole gets a call from the LAPD informing him that a murdered John Doe has claimed, with his dying breath, to be Cole's father, a man Cole has never met. Cole immediately gets to work gathering evidence on the dead man - Herbert Faustina, aka George Reinnike - while cramping the style of the assigned detective, Jeff Pardy. Though Cole finds Reinnike's motel room key at the crime scene, the puzzle pieces are tough to put together, even with the unfailing help of partner Joe Pike and feisty ex-Bomb Squad techie Carol Starkey, who's so smitten with Cole that she can't think of him without smiling. Days of smart sleuthing work take the self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Detective" from a Venice Beach escort service to the California desert, then a hospital in San Diego, where doubts about Reinnike's true heritage begin to dissipate. Meanwhile, a delusional psychopath named Frederick Conrad, who is convinced that his partner in crime was killed by Cole, stalks and schemes to even the score. There's lots to digest, but this character-driven series continues to be strong in plot, action and pacing, and Crais (The Last Detective) boasts a distinctive knack for a sucker-punch element of surprise.
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When an apparently homeless man is found shot in an alley, the first officer on the scene tells private investigator Elvis Cole that the dying man claimed to be Cole's father. Cole has never known the identity of his father. His mother was mentally unstable and would often go missing for extended periods. Cole was conceived during such a disappearance, and the only clue his mother gave him was the cryptic comment that his father was a "human cannonball" in a circus. Long obsessed with finding his father, Cole backtracks through the years to learn the dead man's true identity. As he searches, Cole is unaware that he is the target of an associate of the dead man. Crais' Cole mysteries are infinitely superior to his stand-alone thrillers. The snappy, Spenser-like dialogue and the bursts of violence notwithstanding, the series is most memorable for its intense, character-driven studies of people searching for context and purpose in their lives. Cole's career as a detective stems directly from his childhood attempts to find his father, and his sidekick, Joe Pike, measures himself through a self-defined process of readiness. Very few thrillers leave readers with teary vision, pondering such profundities as acceptance and forgiveness. This is one of the few. A deeply moving, heartfelt mystery. Wes Lukowsky
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