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Stalking The Angel was the second Elvis Cole thriller to appear in the series and, as an earlier work, differs very much in style to the tone set by later books. Here Elvis is at his light-hearted, inappropiate and wise-cracking best and lacks much of the seriousness he shows in some of the more recent novels that are much more darker in content.
Stalking The Angel starts in true Detective-thriller-noir style with Elvis praticising head-stands in his office just as his next potential client walks in. Bradley Warren wants Elvis to reclaim a precious Japanese manuscript for him but his abrupt attitude quickly puts The World's Greatest Detective on the defensive and Elvis soon turns him down. It is only because of Warren's somewhat glamourous assistant that Elvis changes his mind and, reluctantly, begins to do some of the groundwork in a bid to track down who might be interested in stealing the manuscript in the first place.
These investigations soon lead him deep into the midst of the Japanese Mafia, known in criminal circles as the Yakuza and they are not best pleased when Elvis starts sticking his nose in. As are not the Asian Task Force who are watching some of the Yakuza bosses in a bid to break drug connections with the West!
Pretty soon, things have gotten fairly complicated and Elvis and his silent partner, Pike, are forced to up their game to the next level. All is not as well at the Warren family home as first appears and there is much more going on below the surface than is immediately obvious.
Though it suffers from being a bit rougher round the edges than some of the later books, Stalking The Angel is still a very accomplished thriller. It is relatively short compared to some of the others in the series but no less impressive! I really enjoyed it and it is good to see Elvis before things got a bit more serious for him! It is also good to see Pike before all the revelations of his past life came out and these are two very different characters from those in the later novels.
This book is absolutely faultless and a total thrill a minute and I dare you to put it down after picking up its pages. Once again, Crais proves why he has the following and fanbase he has and provides a gripping, taut thriller that takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride into a world they may not be familiar with but will instantly recognise. Detective thrillers don't get much better than this!!
'I was standing on my head in the middle of my office when the best looking woman I'd seen in three weeks walked in." So begins Stalking the Angel, the second book in the Elvis Cole crime thriller series which is, in my opinion, even better than the first. Elvis Cole and his friend, Joe Pike, make an excellent double act and in this book, as in the previous one, the pace is fast and furious.
Bradley Warren, a wealthy business man, has hired Elvis Cole, a Los Angeles private detective, to find a rare Japanese manuscript which has been stolen whilst in his keeping. When asked if he knows anything about Japanese culture, Elvis replies "I read Shogun". Warren is not impressed with this reply but is persuaded to hire Elvis anyway!
Elvis and his friend and partner, Joe Pike, an ex-marine and veteran of the Vietnam War, begin their search within the Japanese community in LA which brings them into contact with the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza. Their investigation also prompts the kidnap of Bradley Warren's daughter at a celebration dinner, and before long there is a murder to contend with too.
I liked Elvis Cole after reading The Monkey's Raincoat, the first book in this series, and now I think I'm in love! Elvis is just such an appealing character. Some could accuse him of suffering from arrested development, however, as he surrounds himself with childish things such as his Spider Man coffee mug, Disney cartoon figurines and his pride and joy, a Pinocchio clock with moving eyes! This frequently leads people to believe that he's immature and possibly a bit dim when, in fact, he's as sharp as a tack.
Elvis, like Joe, is a veteran of the Vietnam War though he handles the baggage that comes with it in a different way. Elvis clings to the things which represent childhood innocence as a way of counterbalancing his experience of the horrors of war.
He delivers some great throw-away lines in the best tradition of American hardboiled detectives, some of which made me laugh out loud.
I say I'm in love with Elvis but I'm torn really between him and his sidekick, Joe. Joe is a much more damaged personality after his stint as a marine in the Vietnam War and he displays some decidedly sociopathic tendencies from time to time but he is also an attractive enigma and definitely one of the good guys. Besides having served as a marine, Joe is an ex-cop who kills without compunction but always for the right reasons.
The story is told in the first person from Elvis's point of view which gives the reader complete insight into his thoughts and observations, so it soon becomes clear that Elvis is no respecter of wealth or position and he's as unimpressed by Bradley Warren as Warren is by him.
Once Elvis and Joe begin their investigation, it becomes obvious that there is a real threat of violence towards the Warren family from the Yakuza who are involved in lots of criminal activities, including drugs, but Bradley Warren is an arrogant man who believes his money can buy him anything. He refuses to take seriously Elvis's warnings that his family is at risk and insists on them all attending a celebratory banquet but when his daughter, Mimi, is kidnapped, he blames Elvis and fires him.
Elvis and Joe don't take too kindly to their dismissal and decide to continue investigating anyway. From then on the action races along at a tremendous pace, with something happening on every page making it very difficult to put this book down and, in fact, I didn't but carried on reading until the wee small hours.
Robert Crais is an excellent writer who holds back on the descriptive writing but fills the book with fast and punchy dialogue. This is another great read and will appeal to anyone who is a fan of the Raymond Chandler school of writing, or indeed loves Bogart and Bacall films. This book is very much in a similar vein.
The only little anachronism is that because the book was first published in 1990, technology has moved on somewhat in the last twenty years. Nowadays Elvis would be on his mobile phone rather than shoving quarters into a payphone. However, I'm so into these two men, I have no problem overlooking the slightly dated scenarios!
This is another great episode in the lives of Elvis and Joe during which I got to know them a little better and to like them a whole lot more. I'm already half way through book 3 of this series, so expect another review shortly!
1989 saw the end of one of the cheesiest decades ever. Miami Vice and the idea of money ruled the world. Thankfully, it was not long till we saw Maggie leave 10 Downing Street, but unlike her politics not everything from the 1980s seems to resonate today. Fashion, music and films from the 80s are often enjoyed, not for their artistic merit, but their cheese value. Therefore, when you read a book written and set in the 80s the impact of the decade can really influence the feel of the book and how you react to it as a reader. This is certainly the case with thrillers and Stalking the Angel certainly has the mirrored sunglasses and rolled up sleeves feel. However, Elvis Cole has gone on to become one of the most popular PIs in modern fiction are his earliest adventures worth your time?
A priceless Japanese book has been stolen from a rich property magnate and Cole, with his silent partner Pike, has been hired to retrieve it. Things become more dangerous when the daughter of the property magnate is kidnapped and threatened with death unless the investigation is called off. It turns out that the magnate is more interested in his business connections than his daughter, but you dont have to like the person who hired you. With his wise cracking ways and all American appeal, delving into the alien culture of Japan could prove even more dangerous for Cole than usual. Can Cole save the day without being turned into Sushi?
Written in 1989 Stalking the Angel is only the second in the long running Elvis Cole mysteries and you can feel it. Unlike recent books the character of Cole is not fully developed. Recently, he has come across as a smart arse, but still likable. He is willing to go the extra mile to see that justice is done even if it means not getting paid. The early signs of this are here, but personally I found him slightly more annoying and not quite as rounded yet. As a fan of the series, reading them out of order, I could see that this book might not endear the character to a new reader.
However, despite my misgivings of Cole in this novel he is still very funny and surrounded with an excellent cast and storyline. Pike is more mysterious than ever in these early books as we know little about him except that he is a dangerous man. I also thought the characters of the girl and her parents were generic but very well written. The book is as much about a missing artefact as it is about dysfunctional families. The ideas of honour and respect for your elders is linked well between the beliefs of the Yakuza and the rampant commercialism of the modern American family unit.
Where Crais shines is his action set pieces and there is no disappointment here. Most of the Cole books follow the tried and tested method of building up the mystery to resolve itself in an explosive and gory conclusion. This is what happens here, but it is so well written that fans of the books would be upset if it were not the case. For any old fan of the series there can be no denying that Crais finale is amongst his best, however, any new fan may find the entire book a little too dated and cheesy. For the first time ever I would probably advise a reader to start the series somewhere in the middle and work their way back as there is little character development for Cole and Pike until later books.
Despite a couple of issues this book embraces its 80s roots and gives you the literally equivalent of an excellent episode of Magnum of the A-Team at their peak. Later books prove that the character of Elvis Cole is more than just an empty headed, wise cracking PI, but for now the reader must read the book for what it is a silly thriller. I thought that the story was pretty generic but Crais writing style is good enough to make this exciting. There will be no awards for originality from this, but the characters are well written and as always the action set pieces rock. Crais fans will love this whilst newer fans should start with a later book or one of his standalone titles. Overall, a great fun read that will not tax the brain cells.
Author: Robert Crais
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
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Bradley Warren had lost something very valuable, something that belonged to someone else: a rare thirteenth-century Japanese manuscript called the Hagakure. Everything PI Elvis Cole knew about Japanese culture he'd learned from reading SHOGUN, but he knew a lot of crooks - and what he didn't know, his sidekick Joe Pike did. Together, Cole and Pike begin their search in LA's Little Tokyo, the nest of the notorious Japanese mafia, the Yakuza - and find themselves caught up in a white-knuckled adventure filled with madness, murder and sexual obsession. Just another day's work for Elvis Cole.