Thursday, March 04, 2010

Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais

Title: Stalking the Angel
Author: Robert Crais
ISBN: 0553286447, Bantam Books, 1992
Genre: Private Investigator, #2 Elvis Cole mystery
Rating: C+

First Line: I was standing on my head in the middle of my office when the door opened and the best looking woman I'd seen in three weeks walked in.

When Bradley Warren and his assistant, Jillian Becker, try to hire Elvis Cole to find a stolen (and priceless) Japanese manuscript, Cole isn't all that eager to accept the case. Warren rubs his fur completely the wrong way. But when Warren's young daughter is kidnapped, the P.I. puts aside his differences and starts tracking down the bad guys.

When I read the first Elvis Cole mystery, The Monkey's Raincoat, I fell head over heels for Elvis and his partner, Joe Pike. Unfortunately, while reading this second book in the series, the bloom was off the rose. The plot, the pacing, the writing are just as good, and I still love Elvis and Joe, but reading Stalking the Angel made me realize something:

The reason why I don't read many mysteries featuring the hard-boiled types of private investigators is because I have a very low tolerance for the plots.

The plots all seem to be the same. Some drop dead gorgeous broad clacks her way into the P.I.'s seedy office, bats her eyelashes, and persuades the manly investigator to do something he really doesn't want to do. There's usually an obnoxious male cretin on hand as a foil for the P.I. and his wisecracks. At least 30% of the characters are pond scum, and the P.I. hero has to have the crap beaten out of him at least once. Preferably twice.

Unfortunately (for me) the plot and the formula went hand in hand in this book. I still love Elvis and Joe, but I think this love affair just has no room for growth. And before any of you die hard fans gang up on me, let me say once more that these books are well-written and the two main characters are fantastic. Even though the story lines aren't my cup of tea and I seriously doubt that I will read any more books in the series...

...if you give me an ELVIS AND JOE 4EVER!!!! bumper sticker, I'll cherish (and use) it with pride.

[Source: Paperback Swap.]


  1. May I add "ditto"? It's the main reason I don't like the hard-boiled PI novels too, I just do too much eye-rolling at the formula.

  2. I don't usually recommend skipping ahead in a series as good as the Elvis Cole series. But before you dismiss Crais's series as just the same old formulaic hardboiled PI dishwater, DO skip ahead to the book called LA REQUIEM. I think you will find the formula went out the window. I think you will find the depth of characterization for Elvis and his friend Joe Pike far beyond 95% of other crime fic tales. And if you like the more complex structure of contemporary crime novels (remember that Stalking the Angel was written in the '80s; remember also that several authors have said that the second book is the hardest to write) then you should know that LA REQUIEM is where it all began. Yes, I'm a bigtime fan of the Elvis Cole series and would really want you to read them all, but if you just can't bring yourself to do so, don't stop without at least giving a try to LA REQUIEM. And then if you still don't like the book, well, to each his own.

  3. I'm very much with Naomi on this one (granted, I'm in the middle of a Cole/Pike blog series, so you know I'm a big fan and can take what I say with a grain of salt). The first five in the series are the most formulaic. Each, though, will offer something different. By the time Sunset Express and Indigo Slam (#6 & 7) arrive you can see Crais begin to tinker with the characters and play with the genre a bit. When the author writes L.A. Requiem, he'll blow the doors off of the series... big time.

    I am one of those who think you'd get the most out of the series reading them in order (keeping in mind that the series in now over 20 years old). This is because you'll then be familiar with the characters and Crais as an author. When you cross the threshold with L.A. Requiem, it'll be just that much sweeter then. But, you don't have to read in any order. If there's one more left in you, or Naomi and I have made you a little curious, try LAR. All the best.

  4. Bernadette-- I tend to be afraid that one of these days my eyes are going to get stuck in the wrong position when I do one of my eye rolls!

    Naomi and le0pard13-- Crais has some of the most loyal readers out there, and I know there's a reason for that. You two are VERY persuasive, and I can feel myself teetering even though I'm firmly grounded on my chair. We shall see! (Thank you sincerely for your input.)


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