Crais’ mastery of his craft comes through here
By Derryll White
Crais, Robert (2003). The Last Detective.
Robert Crais is always a very good storyteller, and his characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike have become well-known. In ‘The Last Detective’, Crais fills in more of both characters’ backgrounds, making them even more interesting.
The novel begins by offering insights to inscrutable Joe Pike, Elvis Cole’s mirror image. Although black to Cole’s white, immutable to Cole’s garrulousness, virtually invisible as opposed to Elvis’s high visibility – despite those and other differences Joe Pike perfectly completes Elvis Cole. Together they are an unmatchable force always working for the downtrodden and disenfranchised.
Crais goes intimately into Elvis Cole’s time in Vietnam, with the Ranger units. He learned to hunt humans. There is something scary in that thought. Crais also touches on the hugeness of the Vietnam conflict, on how the American psyche was molded and altered. Men were forever different after time in the Vietnam fire zones.
Robert Crais builds an overwhelming tension in this book. The reader feels it build, ever more oppressing. And there are many small releases where the writer delves back into both Cole’s and Pike’s past, enriching their characters and veering for a moment away from the ominous conclusion to the story. Robert Crais’ true mastery of his craft comes through here.
I believe this is the best novel of Robert Crais’ that I have read to-date. It demands involvement and investment from the reader. The action builds tension that is released by increasing insights into the substance and character of both Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. At some point the reader realizes that Robert Crais is tapping into what the reader has already established – the reader’s ideal of what he or she could be, with focus and unbending intent. Amazing! I really enjoyed ‘The Last Detective.’
Excerpts from the novel:
JOE PIKE – Pike sat at the water’s edge with a sense of emptiness. He told himself that he would work harder, that he would heal the damage that had been done, and recreate himself as he had recreated himself when he was a child. Effort was prayer; commitment was faith; trust in himself his only creed. Pike had learned these catechisms when he was a child. He had nothing else.
MEN – …boys – like men – find it hard to open their hearts.
KNOWLEDGE – When you see someone, all you see is what they let you see.
BEING – Pike was good at waiting, which is why he excelled in the Marines and other things. He could wait for days without moving and without being bored because he did not believe in time. Time was what filled your moments, so if your moments were empty, time had no meaning. Emptiness did not flow or pass; it simply was. Letting himself be empty was like putting himself in neutral: Pike was.
BEVERLY HILLS – The Beverly Hills Hotel was a great pink beast that sprawled along Sunset Boulevard where Benedict Canyon emptied into Beverly Hills. That part of Beverly Hills was home to some of the wealthiest people in the world, and the Pink Palace fit well, resting on a little rise like a Mission Revival crown jewel. Movie stars and Middle-Eastern oil sheiks felt comfortable staying behind the manicured walls…
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.