Listening to the latest Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novel a couple of weeks ago made me want to revisit two of my favourites—The Sentry and Taken—which I listened to in 2014.
Dru Rayne and her uncle fled to L.A. after Hurricane Katrina; but now, five years later, they face a different danger. When Joe Pike witnesses Dru’s uncle beaten by a protection gang, he offers his help, but neither of them want it — and neither do the federal agents mysteriously watching them.
As the level of violence escalates, and Pike himself becomes a target, he and Elvis Cole learn that Dru and her uncle are not who they seem — and that everything he thought he knew about them has been a lie. A vengeful and murderous force from their past is now catching up to them… and only Pike and Cole stand in the way.
I’ve listened to most of the books in the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series and enjoyed them all but these two are by far my favourites. I love the relationship between the two of them and the ongoing character development. Elvis, a licensed private investigator, sensitive and always wise cracking, and Joe, inscrutable and tough but with great depth and strong morals, making him a very likeable, and multi layered character. Given his background of ex marine, ex cop and ex mercenary, you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to be a vegetarian who practices yoga and meditation.
Both Elvis and Joe have had troubled pasts and, although on the surface they seem completely different personalities, the bonds of friendship are as deep as they can be.
This story focuses mostly on Joe and I love the stories where he is at the forefront. He had no idea that stopping to fill up his car would start a chain of events no-one could foresee. Joe gives his word to a woman he’s trying to help and even though she’s not at all what she seems he has to see it through regardless
If Pike had not stopped for air, he would not have seen the men or crossed the street. He would not have met the woman he was about to meet. Nothing that was about to happen would have happened. But Pike had stopped. And now the worst was coming.
That sets the tone for the rest of the story. Joe and Elvis tangle with a hired serial assassin and torturer who thinks he’s a werewolf and wants the chance to kill a vampire, drug cartels and gang members. A fast-moving plot and lots of action. Elvis is still wrestling with his feelings for Lucy Chenier and Joe’s more vulnerable side is explored.
When Nita Morales hires Elvis Cole to find her missing adult daughter, she isn’t afraid, even though she’s gotten a phone call asking for ransom. She knows it’s a fake, that her daughter is off with the guy Nita will only call “that boy”, and that they need money: “Even smart girls do stupid things when they think a boy loves them.”
But she is wrong. The girl and her boyfriend have been taken by bajadores – bandits who prey on other bandits, border professionals who prey not only on innocent victims, but on each other. They steal drugs, guns, and people – buying and selling victims like commodities, and killing the ones they can’t get a price for.
Cole and Pike find the spot where they were taken. There are tire tracks, bullet casings, and bloodstains. They know things look as bad as possible.
But they are wrong, too. It is about to get much worse. Going undercover to find the two young people and buy them back, Cole himself is taken, and disappears. Now it is up to Joe Pike to retrace Cole’s steps, burning through the hard and murderous world of human traffickers to find his friend.
Taken is one of those books that leave a lasting impression. It’s memorable, not only for a great story but also for uncovering the depth and intensity of the friendship between Elvis and Joe. It’s one of the main reasons I find these books so compulsive. Joe is a man of very few words but they are not necessary, his actions say it all.
The passages where Joe is at Elvis’ house, washing his car and with the cat, speak volumes. I love that Elvis and Joe are there for each other, no questions asked or needed.
The way in which the story is written works extremely well, jumping between Elvis searching for the missing Krista, Joe and Jon searching for Elvis, Krista and Jack, keeping the tension and suspense levels high. Joe has to use all his abilities and is totally focused on saving his friend. Jon Stone appears fairly briefly in earlier books but is much more prominent (and deadly) in this one. Between him and Joe the bad guys had better watch out!
It’s a dark and disturbing story, brutality, murder and unbelievably inhumane treatment from bajadores, the traffickers in illegal immigrants who cross over into the US via the Mexican border. The immigrants are transported across the border by people known as coyotes, who also have a callous disregard for human life but who, in their turn, are preyed on by the bajadores. It’s quite hard to listen to some of the passages, horrendous and so sad, especially as the exploitation, and worse, of these people does actually happen.
Robert Crais’ writing is compelling, descriptive and vivid and is enhanced by Luke Daniels’ accomplished performance and characterisations. He conveys the menace of the bajadores, one in particular is very scary, and the horrors the immigrants suffer, extremely well.