Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

Robert Crais is the author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels: A native of Louisiana, he grew up in a blue collar family of oil refinery workers and police officers, and was trained as a mechanical engineer before pursuing his dream of becoming a writer. After years of amateur film-making and writing short fiction, he journeyed to Hollywood in 1976, where he quickly found work writing scripts for such major network television series as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice, and L.A. Law, as well as scripting numerous series pilots and movies-of-the-week for all four major networks. He received an Emmy nomination for his work on Hill Street Blues, but is most proud of his 4-hour NBC miniseries, Cross of Fire, which The New York Times declared: "A searing and powerful documentation of the Ku Klux Klan’s rise to national prominence in the ‘20s."

In the mid-eighties, feeling constrained by the rigid working requirements of Hollywood, Crais created Elvis Cole and Joe Pike in order to deal with themes he could not readily explore on television. His major literary influences were Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Robert B. Parker, among others.

Currently, Crais lives in the Santa Monica mountains with his family, two cats, and many thousands of books. Of his latest novel, L. A. REQUIEM, Publishers Weekly wrote, "Crais has stretched himself the way another Southern California writer—Ross Macdonald—always tried to do, to write a mystery novel with a solid literary base," and Booklist added, "This is an extraordinary crime novel that should not be pigeonholed by genre. The best books always land outside preset boundaries. A wonderful experience." High praise indeed.

When not writing, Robert Crais is an active aerobatic pilot, gourmet cook, and backpacker.

Books Published:


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

L. A. Requiem

Those of you familiar to these pages will remember our review of Crais' previous work, Indigo Slam. Now, Crais returns with his eighth Elvis Cole mystery, LA Requiem, a breakneck thriller that leaves the wise-cracking detective second-guessing himself.

Cole's partner, the tight-lipped, charm-free Joe Pike, gets a call from his friend Frank "Tortilla" Garcia. Not only is Garcia a wealthy businessman, he's a political heavyweight and father of Karen, Joe's ex. Karen has gone missing, and Garcia wants them to find her. He sends the crime-fighting duo out to find her, but the boys are beaten by the men in blue who find Karen in a park with a bullet in her brain - shot while jogging. The two stay on the case, but when another murder points to Pike as a suspect, things take a turn for the worse. The boys on the force are all too willing to put Pike away due to his less-than-saintly past. When Cole attempts to save Pike, he finds a lot more than he bargained for.

Crais was a writer for Hill Street Blues and LA Law and his skill of snappy dialogue and clean-cut scenes make for great reading. If you've been waiting over two years for the latest Elvis Cole adventure, you won't be disappointed. Multiple points of view and plot twists are teamed with a great story (but not the usual wisecracks) full of real people, expertly characterised. Crais finally delves into the Joe Pike character in depth, so the reader can understand what makes Joe tick.

Crais has broken the mold and created a three-dimensional characters in Elvis and Joe. Emotional, thrilling, and as usual for Crais, witty, this is one of the best detective novels of the 90's.

Crais proves once again he is one of the best mystery writers today. The best in the series so far.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Demolition Angel

After eight novels featuring Elvis Cole and his loyal sidekick Joe Pike, Robert Crais has taken a break from his famous private eye. Now, Crais introduces us to Carol Starkey, a bomb squad veteran now doing time as a Detective with LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section. Carol Starkey is a very different character than Cole - but just as compelling.

Worth the gamble of changing main characters? You better believe it!

Three years have passed since the detonation that killed Carol's partner and lover, but she is still severely scarred both mentally and physically. She can't bear to look in the mirror, and she hasn't been with another man since David Boudreaux left her bed that last morning he went to work. She gets through the day with the help of Tagamet and alcohol.

When a bomb call takes the life of another colleague, Carol begins to investigate a series of explosions that seem to be designed to exterminate bomb technicians. She soon realizes that she's "the one that got away." With the help of an FBI agent named Pell, whom she loathes professionally for interfering with her job but finds attractive anyway, Carol must track down one of the most frighteningly brilliant killers of the modern age.

Carol initially ascribes the blast to the infamous Mr. Red, an egotistical explosion freak. Pell introduces her to the frightening online world through which Mr. Red shares gossip and explosive devices with domestic terrorists and the morbidly curious. Risking all, Carol makes e-mail contact with Red, who claims that he didn't plant the bomb and is upset that someone placed his signature on the crime. A race is on between Red and Carol to identify the real killer...

Robert Crais is a master at creating believable characters and delivering a white-knuckle ride of suspense. But readers of his Elvis Cole novels already know that. This novel is much darker and edgier than the Cole novels and as sharp as a blade. Non-stop action, intense suspense, and plenty of twists along the way lead to an explosive (pun intended!) climax. An intelligent, multi-dimensional thriller, that will keep your heart racing.

Hollywood Blockbuster? You better believe it!

Another brilliant novel by Crais.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Indigo Slam

Indigo Slam is another great Elvis Cole mystery. Three years after the witness relocation program hustled his family out of Seattle, seconds away from some men with guns, Clark Hewitt is on the run again--but this time he hasn't taken his family with him. So his eldest daughter Teri, only 15 but acting 40, arrives at Elvis Cole's office waving a handful of bills in Cole's face as a retainer for tracking down her father. Cole eventually tracks down Clark, only to find he is a terminally ill druggie and a counterfeiter who'd turned state's evidence against Russian mobsters who are now bent on killing him and his kids, and he can't turn to the feds this time because he's gone back to printing funny money. Simple, isn't it?

The novel has it all: the witness protection program, the Russian mob, Vietnamese patriots, Federal agents, counterfeiting, child neglect, romance and thrills and sprints towards the finale with a fantastically bizarre edge-of-your-set showdown in, of all places, Disneyland! Is Crais hoping this novel will make it to the big screen in Hollywood? You better believe it. But in these Hollywood-inspired times when most people think a good mystery involves another boring serial killer, Robert Crais shows what a true crime novel is all about.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Sunset Express

LAPD Detective Angela Rossi says she recovered the hammer that killed Susan Martin from her husband's shrubbery. Easy. Piece of cake. Lock 'im up and throw away the key.

But Teddy Martin's lawyer, Jonathan Green, says Rossi planted it there, and hires Elvis Cole to find holes in her story.

Oh-oh...not as easy...

For once, though, Elvis is stymied. Though LeCedrick Earle insists Rossi set him up five years ago, Earle's own mother tells Cole he can't be trusted; and there's no other evidence that Rossi's rotten. But Rossi, a fallen star in the LAPD, could use a celebrity conviction as her ticket back to the fast track.

So Cole, still working with the Big Green Defense Team, turns to following up callers to Green's hotline, and this time he hits the jackpot much too fast: A witness puts him on to a pair of lowlifes who talked about kidnapping some rich bitch and had photos of Susan Martin in their apartment.

Only trouble is, the lowlifes have been dead for three weeks - naturally!

Is it a setup? Cole, already disoriented by the adoring media attention he's been getting ever since breaking open the case against Martin, now finds himself and his sidekick Pike going up against Martin, Green, and Co.

But Green isn't a lawyer for nothing; he knows every trick about distancing himself and his client from the crime by avoiding incriminating papers and shredding incriminating witnesses.

How is Cole ever going to bag such a slick pair? If Cole's answer isn't quite as satisfying as he'd like, he can always resort to violence. And guess what? He does. Just wait for the climax!

Crais just keeps getting better. This is his sixth novel and the reader can tell that now he's really hitting his straps. A perfect read full of thrills, spills, violence and humour. Cole and Pike are great as usual, and watch for the new love interest and...er...Cole's cat.

You won't be disappointed.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Lullaby Town

Elvis Cole is back. The laid-back LA private eye, who debuted with huge success in "The Monkey's Raincoat", returns with his slightly psychotic partner, Joe Pike.

Hollywood's newest wunderkind is Peter Alan Nelson, the brilliant, erratic director known as the King of Adventure. His films make billions, but his manners make enemies. What the boy king wants, he gets, and what Nelson wants is for Elvis to comb the country for the airhead wife and infant child the film-school flunkout dumped en route to becoming the third biggest filmmaker in America. He's now developed deep pockets (courtesy of the string of action hits beginning with "Chainsaw...") and a conscience of sorts - and he wants his wife and son back.

It's the kind of case Cole can handle in his sleep - until it quickly turns out to be a nightmare...

For when Cole finds Nelson's wife in a small Conneticut town, she's nothing like what he expects. The lady has some unwanted - and very nasty - mob connections.

It'll take all of Elvis's wise-guy savvy to pry her loose from those other wise-guys without condemning her to the witness-protection program or the East River. But can he?

This novel is a pure pleasure to read from the very first page. Cole and Pike shine once more as our heroic duo who manage to battle evil with a smile. Spenser or Robert Parker fans will love every minute.



Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Voodoo River

Los Angeles private eye Elvis Cole is back in his fifth appearance and this time he is hired by super popular television star Jodi Taylor to find Taylor's birth parents.

Easy enough. Shouldn't take long...

But soon after Cole arrives in Louisiana's bayou country to begin his inquiries, a local investigator is killed.

With the help of his loose-cannon partner Joe Pike, Cole discovers the dim, dark secret of Jodi's past. It's a secret that has been buried for 30 years until the murdered investigator uncovered it and tried to blackmail Jodi about it. But was he killed just because of the blackmail, or was he threatening some other illegal and lucrative operation.

Cole and Pike find themselves deep in trouble once again, but - hey - that's what they live for! So, it's up to them to take down the bad guys, which they do with smiles on their faces. But before they can do that, they have to conquer a crazed housewife, a Cajun thug and a 100-pound river turtle named Luther.

As always, the characters are unique and colorful; Cole once again is in fine form. He's as tough, witty, and clever as ever, and his partner Pike exudes danger like no one else in suspense fiction.

Well worth the read.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Stalking the Angel

Stalking the Angel is another wonderful entry in this great series. It certainly hits the ground running on page one and doesn't let up until the last page is read.

Once again, wisecracking Cole adheres to no one's standards and doesn't much seem to care who hires him.

When he's approached by Bradley Warren, a pompous executive, to investigate the theft of a priceless manuscript, he takes the job even though the two clash from the first word. Meeting Warren's bizarre wife and troubled daughter also dampens what little enthusiasm he has for the case. But then the daughter is kidnapped - right after Cole promised her he'd watch out for her - so suddenly it becomes personal.

But now Cole is deep in trouble as he encounters the notorious Yakuza, the Japanese Mob, and is drawn into a game of sexual obsession, amorality, and evil.

When suspects start dying torturous, violent deaths, Cole enlists the aid of partner Joe Pike and the two leave no stone unturned in bringing the case to a climactic end.

The plot is intense, fast, funny, and thoughtful. With Crais presenting us yet again with the lovable hero with a smart mouth and eyes that don't miss much. But the violence is real, but not unjustified. Ethical lines are understandably blurred and happily ever after isn't part of the deal.

Just what we've come to expect from a terrific Crais novel.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

The Monkey's Raincoat

Elvis Cole is a wisecracking, tough-guy, Private Eye and his silent, Clint Eastwood-like, partner Joe Pike are the main characters in Crais' debut novel. It's no wonder this Elvis Cole novel was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Shamus, and Macavity awards and won both the Anthony and Macavity for Best Novel.

Crais dresses up his first entry in the Elvis Cole series with all of the traditional P.I. trimmings. They're all here:

* The lost, lonely, yet attractive, perpetual victim
* The strong-willed, brash, yet attractive, best friend of perpetual victim
* The solid-as-a-rock, faithful sidekick
* The sometimes volatile relationship with local law enforcement.

Yep, Crais treads the normal P.I. path...but for his first novel, it's still enjoyable.

It's the humor and upbeat attitude that separates this novel from other "normal" P.I. novels. Crais takes the traditional down-trodden detective and infuses him with (believe it or not) optimism! Cole is a literate, wisecracking Vietnam vet, who is one cool cat and an excellent character for a series. The Monkey's Raincoat is filled with liberal doses of action, suspense, and humor.

Not the author's best, but still enjoyable.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Source:

Free Fall

Private detective Elvis Cole's latest case involves the lovely Jennifer Sheridan. She's told Cole that her decorated Los Angeles-cop boyfriend is in some mysterious trouble.

Never one to say no, Cole and his partner Pike are soon plunged in police corruption, gangs, and the depiction of themselves as armed killers.

It's one hell of a roller-coaster of excitement and mystery, and imagine Cole's surprise when the cop swears he's clean - merely cheating on the girlfriend. Who's lying and who's telling the truth? Time is running out for Cole to decide...

Not Crais' best novel, but still tightly plotted, funny, and suspenseful. First-time Crais readers would do better with "LA Requiem" or "Voodoo River"...but dedicated Crais fans will still love Free Fall!


The Official Robert Crais website can be found at http://www.robertcrais.com/.

Where to buy:


For those who order online, try:

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Past Features

 September 2000: Janet Evanovich Click here to view.
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 July 2000: Oxford English Dictionary Click here to view.
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 February 2000: Harry Turtledove Click here to view.
 January 2000: J. N. Williamson Click here to view.
 December 99: Phil Rickman Click here to view.
 November 99: Paul Thomas Click here to view.
 October 99: James Lee Burke Click here to view.
 September 99: Leisure Books Click here to view.
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 May 99: Stephen Laws Click here to view.
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