Elvis Cole, private dick and smart mouth, is the protagonist of nine mystery novels by US mystery writer Robert Crais. (He was last seen in the 1997 book, Indigo Slam, and Crais fans will be pleased to see him return in this novel.) Wisecracking Cole works from the Los Angeles office he shares with his partner, and former military tough guy, Joe Pike. Joe plays a minor role in this novel. The focus is more on the inner thoughts of Elvis and a child named Ben. Joe is called in immediately when the abduction is discovered, and takes his usual role of the silent advisor. His expertise is muscle and gunplay, and when it is needed, he is there. Elvis Cole's love interest from an earlier novel, legal eagle Lucy Chenier, returns when her son Ben is kidnaped while visiting Cole's home. Crais' last two novels, Demolition Angel (2000) and Hostage (2001), hang together better than this plot. Early plot points follow logically with the tense relationship with Lucy, Ben’s visit, and then, the kidnaping, but Cole's Viet Nam flashback references later in the mystery appear to be a ploy to sell the book and digress into a plot thread that reminds the reader of a bad Magnum P.I. show. Lucy's former husband arrives to assist in the search, and the plot becomes entwined with the couple's baggage. The protagonist from Demolition Angel, female cop Carol Starkey, is back throwing love sparks with Cole, although nothing really comes of this interaction.
This time Starkey has been reassigned to the juvenile division, after her harrowing escape at the end of the 2000 novel. The two couples interact as the clues unfold related to Cole's past and Lucy's former husband's business relationships. Both are suspected in Ben's disappearance. As with any mystery novel, it would spoil the ending to summarize all the details, but one element is necessary to know. The surprise ending is foreshadowed well and leaves the reader satisfied that there are no plot points left unaccounted for in the telling. Not a good book for readers who look for straight line plot development, as the narrative alternates points of view between Cole and Ben in the middle of the book. The novel has graphic description of spectacular action sequences including shoot outs and chases. Think of an interesting action adventure movie translated into a book and you have the idea. The text is not something you would read for scholarship, but it is excellent escape reading for the summer or a weekend.