Los Angeles PI Elvis Cole is hired off the books by Meryl Lawrence, senior executive in an explosives manufacturer, to track down Amy Breslyn, an employee who’s gone AWOL with a stack of plastic explosive and nearly half a million bucks in company money. Next thing he knows, Elvis has walked smack into a murder case — where of course he instantly becomes Suspect #1 — and into the storyline of Crais’s characters from a different series, LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his four-footed partner, Maggie. Reluctant to trust each other at first, Elvis and Scott — with the help of Elvis’s partner Joe Pike and their mercenary friend Jon Stone — uncover a conspiracy in which various people are not at all what they seem.
I have a feeling I may have read one of Crais’s thrillers back in the 1990s or early 2000s. If so, it’s long lost in the ocean of books I’ve read since, so effectively The Promise is my introduction to his work. It certainly won’t be the last book of his I’ll read, because I very much enjoyed the ride.
That said, the level at which I enjoyed it was about that at which I enjoy me a Midsomer Murders movie every now and then. (This is not to suggest there’s the slightest resemblance otherwise between The Promise and Midsomer Murders.) It offered a thoroughly entertaining way to pass the time, but I never felt as if I were being stretched, as if the book were offering me something new.
For example, every now and then while reading I’d become conscious that the book’s vocabulary was a bit restricted, that sometimes the word-choice was sticking too closely to the obvious. I’m not trying to argue that the language should have been unnecessarily fancified, just that . . . well, imagine that the only food you ever got to eat was Macdonald’s. Sooner or later you’d start craving for something, anything, that wasn’t on the menu.
I thought, too, that there were problems with the characterization, or lack thereof. Elvis is an amiable, sometimes very amusing companion, but Joe Pike is a complete cipher. Scott and Maggie are just fine, but the lead cop on the case, Carter? I still don’t feel as if I’ve met the guy, who seems to be nothing more than a walking bad temper. His sidekick, Glory Stiles, has a wonderful smile; we know this because we’re told it every few sentences while she’s onstage; the same goes for the permanent scowl of Scott’s boss Dominick Leland. To be fair, either Crais’s editor had a word with him about this or he realized himself what he was doing, because after a while he does start to fill the two of them out a little as people; but before then it’s just lazy faux characterization at work: Glory = dazzling smile, Leland = grim scowl.
Gosh, but I’m in a picky mood. As I say, I enjoyed reading The Promise, and indeed read it very quickly and eagerly, which is the customary sign of a good thriller, but it didn’t have nearly as much impact on me while I was reading it as I’d have expected — it didn’t wallop me around emotionally.
Overall, then, I’d say The Promise is extremely good at what it does; I just wished it were trying to do a bit more.