Monday 24 October 2011

Robert Crais: Voodoo River Review

Robert Crais really hits his stride wirh Voodoo River, fifth in the Cole/Pike set. Elvis Cole is hired to do a routine job, investigate the birth of an adopted child. Delicacy is needed as the child is now a grown up and very popular TV actress, playing the pretty but wholesome wife of a wholesome blonde man and mother of four blonde kids - hammering that mid-Western demographic.

The only info actress Jodi Taylor has is a date and a place in Louisiana so Elvis flies off - to find an alien backwater land and a love at first sight - lawyer Lucy Chenier. The latter will prove problematic in future novels, the former presents more immediate problems. Under a pretext Cole asks around the bayous and soon starts crossing the tracks of another inquirer. When they meet it's not long before a couple of heavies pop up and we meet Milt Rossier, local gang leader, together with a very large snapping turtle (twelve inch wide mouth full of very sharp teeth).

Cole's enquiries lead him to the wife of the local sheriff - she's alike enough to be Jodi's sister, but she seems scared and her husband runs Cole off. And then the previous investigator gets murdered. Too many secrets and Elvis has to start unravelling them. There's a 36-year old murder, there's a set of stolen adoption papers and there's the sheriff, seemingly in league with the neighbourhood heavies. Searching for more information Elvis discovers that Rossier is importing people, illegal immigrants. His accomplices kill annoyances casually but Cole can't walk away. Unfortunately his plan is both dangerous and flawed and we head for a shootout with some very bad people.

So, how does this compare with the previous books in the series? It's more rounded, more twists and actual detection, and there's a lot more descriptive writing. Not that the previous books were "wham, bam, thank you" but Crais takes the time to savour the local atmosphere and the book is all the better for it.

Can I criticise it? Yes, on a minor level - there's the odd line repeated from a previous book (sloppy editing) and Crais invents a good baddie in the huge and lumbering René but doesn't make enough of him - I prefer my villains to do more villainous things before their demise. That's just cavilling though, this is a very good read.


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