The Promise by Robert Crais

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Trade Paperback, May 2016

Buy it at Mystery Lovers Bookshop

It's been a couple of years since I read a Bob Crais book so when I spotted The Promise at the library I thought, "Why not." I'm glad I had that thought because I totally enjoyed this smartly written, emotionally affecting, thrilling and funny book.

For those not familiar with the series Elvis Cole is a Los Angeles PI who frequently works with his laconic (slightly psychotic) sidekick Joe Pike. In classic PI fashion Elvis has himself a client who may not be telling him the whole truth (as Sam Spade says to Miss Wonderly, "We didn't exactly believe you but we did believe your $200."). It's a missing persons case and following a lead from the client leads Elvis straight into a murder scene, a chase for a killer and an encounter with a K9 officer, Scott James, and his dog Maggie.

As is typical in an Elvis Cole book chapters take on the point of view of various characters with those featuring Elvis in classic first person PI while the others are third person narration. Among the points of view there are the bad guy, Joe Pike, Scott James the K9 officer and, most remarkably, Maggie the German Shepard. I'm not sure what sort of research Crais did into military and police dogs but these chapters most definitely have verisimilitude although I can't speak to their accuracy. They are certainly the most memorable part of the book as we get to share in Maggie's clear but simple view of life: loyalty and protection of her master, her pack, her unrestrained joy in the anticipation of eating baloney, her single-minded pursuit of scent. Also beautifully presented is the reciprocal loyalty that Scott has towards Maggie.

Cole's patient unraveling of the missing persons case follows classic PI guidelines and, classically, it turns out that the client is lying to him. Cole and Pike, with some assistance from shadowy operator Jon Stone, sort out the situation in a series of clever maneuvers that provide a rough sort of justice.

A quick read, thoroughly entertaining and enriched by the beautifully rendered friendship between a man and a very special dog.