Thursday 3 May 2012

Robert Crais: Indigo Slam Review

A rain-drenched nightime evacuation: man and children being moved by US Marshals. Ambush, Marshal down, van escapes in panic.

Three years on. Find a missing man - nothing unusual for Cole and Pike, except that the clients are the man's children, the eldest Teri at fifteen. Cole has turned down the job but girlfriend Lucy's maternal instincts persuade him to change his mind. With some annoyance at Craig Haines' behaviour but no great expectations, Elvis begins the hunt.

Craig is a master printer, a nomadic job as he chases intermittent large contracts. Unfortunetely, Craig was sacked from his last job for using heroin. The printshop employee selling to him was also fired - Cole traces him and confirms that Craig bought a dozen dime bags before disappearing. Not good.

Phone records identify a contact in Seattle; a quick break-in and there's a photograph of Craig and wife shortly before she died - only the photo is tagged "Hewitt" and a visit to the grave confirms that name. Cole confronts the friend at his workplace, another printshop, and the man is scared. He follows him to a bar and the man is terrified - weirdly so. He has good reason though, as a very capable ex-Spetznaz thug and a giant bodybuilder stick a gun in Cole's ribs and take him to a warehouse, there to meet the leader of the Markov gang. From the Ukraine, now a leading light amongst the so-called Russian Mafia, Markov is hunting Craig Hewitt for testifying against Markov's brother. The bodybuilder has just started slapping Cole around when there's an armed invasion - US Marshals and Customs officers. Cole is dragged out and whisked off to "protective custody".

After the mandatory antler-bashing, the Marshals confirm that Craig was a counterfeiter for Markov, testified when Markov accused him of skimming and went into Witness Protection before vanishing. The rainy night ambush was Markov's first attempt at killing the family. He's believed to be determined to achieve that aim. "Where is the family?" ask the Marshals. Cole refuses to give any information and flies back to Los Angeles with a large bruise and much to ponder. Lo and behold, Craig has returned to his family, all is well with his world. Elvis tries to talk sense and rehab programmes, Craig smiles and deflects any sense of reality.

Elvis and Joe PIke confer: they know the Markovs will turn up soon and indeed they do. A nifty ambush slows the baddies down and it's decided that the Haines/Hewitts will have to go into a safe house. Cole returns to their abode and, yes, Craig's gone missing again. Regardless, the three children are removed to a safer location and Cole returns to the hunt. Ransacking the Haines' house turns up a lot of couterfeit dollars and some catalogues - Craig has ordered $40,000 worth of printing equipment. A few phone calls and there's a delivery address. A quick visit to Long Beach and there are three hard-faced Vietnamese men with Benelli shotguns - another faction that doesn't want Elvis around.

We now have all the major players in the mix, bar an official US Government tranche, and they're on the way. We find out just what Craig's up to and why he's using heroin. There's an arrangement with the government to allow Craig to progress in return for setting up Markov. There are major gun battles, a chase through the Magic Kingdom and a nasty sting in the tail. There's even a side story about girlfriend Lucy, her ex-husband and Elvis's cat defending their home. More complex than many of the Crais novels, this one zips along and juggles all its balls very effectively. Definitely worth a read. Note: if you're new to the Cole/Pike novels this can be read out of sequence.


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