Hard to put down Robert Crais’ ‘Taken’

There are few authors I truly get excited about when a new novel is coming out. Stephen King and Joe R. Lansdale certainly do it for me. Robert McCammon definitely gets me excited with his Matthew Corbett series. And, finally, there’s Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels.

I’ve been reading Robert Crais since 1992 when “Lullaby Town” came out in hardcover. That’s 20 years. His Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels have never disappointed me. In fact, the series has gotten better with each passing year.

In the newest novel, “Taken,” Crais has written his best book to date. It’s a page turner of the grandest sort. It also hits you in the gut with a solid punch at the end. I got goose bumps and a little misty eyed during the last few pages. For me, the whole book was about close friendship and what a man will do to save those he cares about.

Of course, there are other themes running throughout the novel, such as the epidemic battle we now face with the drug cartels and bandits in Southern California. “Taken” starts off with a young couple out in the desert one night near Palm Springs. Their friends have already left, but they decide to stay behind for a few minutes. Their mistake. Traffickers appear, dropping off illegal aliens near the spot where they are hiding.

No sooner do the scared people get off the trucks than they are quickly herded together by other bandits who come out of nowhere. The traffickers are murdered and the aliens held for ransom. The young couple are swept up within this group and taken to an unknown location where they are held in a small room with dozens of other captives.

The young woman’s mother calls Elvis Cole to investigate the situation because she at first thinks it is nothing but a prank being pulled by her daughter to get some money out of her. But there’s also another reason. Though the lady now has a successful business, she’s an illegal alien and frightened of being deported and losing everything she has.

Within five hours of starting the case, Elvis Cole pretty much knows what happened to the kids. The question is how to find them before time runs out. He calls in Joe Pike. Pike, being more savvy with these kind of things, understands that the odds are going to be insurmountable when they have to deal with the bandits. He calls in backup in the form of Jon Stone (a new character being introduced), a member of Delta Force who loves a good challenge.

It isn’t long, however, before Elvis Cole disappears. From that point on it becomes personal for Pike. He understands that his friend may now be dead, and if so, he’s going to kill everyone involved in the crime. He will take no prisoners. Jon Stone realizes this about his friend and is ready to do whatever is necessary to get revenge.

Crais doesn’t disappoint with this book. He keeps the pace on high octane, refusing to grant the reader even a moment of relaxation to catch his or her breath. You’re in this for the duration, and it is a battle as the good guys go up against the worse that humanity has to offer.

All the major and secondary characters are written to perfection and come alive on the pages within “Taken.” The author doesn’t hold back on character development. 

The ending is heartfelt and leaves the reader with a clearer understanding of friendship and of men who bond as brothers. This is a novel filled with horrendous killing, but it is also a book that looks at heroism and what it takes to do the right thing against all odds.

“Taken” is the best of the best. If you’re not already reading Crais, then his new novel will cement your relationship with him. This is a winner and will make you hungry for more.

Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas “The Encounter” and “The Tunnels,” both of which can be purchased at Amazon’s Kindle Store for 99 cents each.

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