Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's Next Door?

I just finished reading Taken recently released by Robert Crais. I have enjoyed his mysteries that have been sprinkled with dry wit and some wise-cracking humor, so I was eager to read the latest adventures of his two main characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I tiptoed carefully into it because the further I read, the more I knew it was going to be a hard slog. I almost put it down and walked away because I suspected it would not end well. There's not much humor in this story. It wasn't an easy read, but it was enlightening. It was a tense crime thriller.

The plot begins with Elvis Cole being hired by a successful business woman to find her college-age daughter and boyfriend who have been missing for a week. After all, Elvis Cole was dubed the World's Greatest Detective in a magazine article. She can't contact the police because she is an undocumented, illegal immigrant, but she has been contacted for ransom for her daughter.

So begins the search by Elvis Cole and Joe Pike to find the two young people, who they discover have been mistakenly swept up in crimes taking place near the border. They discover the shadowy world of human trafficking by coyotes who bring people from many countries of the world, illegally, into the U.S. through the southern borders into the desert. They are aided by drug cartels and gangs in the south western states. The people pay a fee to come to the U.S., then become prisoners when stolen from the coyotes who are supposed to take them to communities where they are expected by businesses that will employ them or relatives who have paid for their passage. The bajadore, who steals the pollos from the coyotes, holds the pollos as prisoners in horrendous conditions and demands ransoms from relatives. When they stop paying, the bajadore and his crew brutally kill and dispose of the bodies in the desert.

The pollos, which is what they call the illegal immigrants to cheapen their value as humans, are held in homes in regular neighborhoods. The homes are made into prisons inside and no one in the neighborhood knows what is happening under their noses. The homes have out-of-state owners and are managed by a realtor who is related to the bajadore. The rent is paid to the realtor and the out-of-state owner has no idea to whom his property is being rented.

An interesting twist in the plot is the appearance of a near-superhero, Jon Stone. He is a special ops mercenary, and polyglot, with a photographic memory, and "skills". Trained by the U.S. government, he floats about as a free-agent taking on tough-guy challenges. He's an Alpha male on the loose. When it appears that one of the two missing college students they are tasked to find happens to be the nephew of an Assistant Deputy Director of the ATF, a power struggle ensues. Everyone wants to find the kidnapped people,  but Jon tells the agent, "When we find these people, if Cole's dead, they aren't walking out. There will be no court of law. No judge and jury. You're an Assistant Deputy Director of the ATF. This will not go down in any way you can live with." Sometimes justice and the law can't play well together. I hope to see Jon Stone appear in the next Robert Crais novels because you can be assured when he is in the picture, the plot will end in a way the reader will like.


  1. Oh yeah, this is my kind of book. Mystery and justice in the end. Thanks for sharing the info on this one. I will see if the library has it yet.

  2. Sounds like real life. I do hope they found the young couple alive and well!!

  3. It sounded very realistic from what I read in the news. The whole concept of kidnapping is becoming frightening and too common. It would make one tend to think the world is spinning out of our control. Not to give away the ending, but the couple were found in time and still alive but many of the others kidnapped were not. My next novel will have to be more cheerful and uplifting.

  4. Even though it wasn't an easy read, it does sound quite good.
    I read one awhile back called 'Even Silence Has An End' by a woman that was held captive by the FARC guerrillas for many years. Definitely a rough read but very well-written and she did survive to tell the tale.
    Intense stories can be really interesting!