Hostage BOOK review [Robert Crais]

Book Reviews
Hostage BOOK review [Robert Crais]
Aug 7, 2001, 00:23

HOSTAGE by Robert Crais; Doubleday, 2001

I've been a fan of Crais (pronounced “Chris”) since the publication of his paperback original The Monkey's Raincoat which introduced the longstanding serialization of his private investigator Elvis Cole.

As characters go, Cole's a fictional being imbued with all the fatalistic, human flaws you might—unpredictably—expect. Cole's a modernized character fashioned with the requisite dosage of humorous sarcasm and enough of the hard-boiled grit to sate the hard core fan of the genre. Unlike other writers of the field there hasn't been much sign of him leading this character down a safe and cozy route. I have found this to be a common tendency some writers can't resist. If anything Crais's progressively managed to make the Cole series a lot harder with each successive novel, culminating where we last left him with the totally unhinged and labyrinthian opus that was LA Requiem. A book which largely turned the table on his fans by introducing a very cool, hard-as-nails back story regarding Cole's wet ops partner, former cop Joe Pike, and by seeing much of the story through the eyes of this character.

So why (oh, why?) is it that Hostage, Crais's first stand-alone novel is such a disappointment? Is it because Crais finally caved into the tendencies his background as a TV writer compelled him to? Yeah, I buy that. Totally. This has “created for film” written all over it. Predictably too, this is total submission to the kind of hack work I'd never expect from somebody whose work previous is nothing less than respectable.

Hostage concerns itself with the dunder-headed moves three small time crooks (two brothers: one the elder but-not-so-wise; the dim-but-not-stupid little bro with a conscience; the gigantic-and-foreboding-silent pal who the eldest met in stir but doesn't really know too well) who embark on a calamitous post-convenience store holdup adventure. It's one of those tales where one stupid move escalates into a domino effect of ensuing bad moves. Think the inverse of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles but at the creative level of a made-for-TV movie.

Hate to slag the guy (didn't think I ever would) but with a string of worthwhile and compellingly entertaining novels prior to this, I certainly expected more. Indeed, upon the books conclusion I not only felt robbed and duped, but I also felt as if I was hit with the train, plane, and automobile.

Avoid this, and jump right to LA Requiem and if you like it—which you undoubtedly will—read the rest of the Coles series in or out of sequence. They're all good. This isn't.

-Peter Davis

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