The Promise - Robert Crais

Elvis Cole has been hired to find Amy Breslyn, from her pictures he says, "She looked like a sad version of someone's marshmallow aunt: a kindly woman, slightly out-of-date, who wore sensible shoes and minded her own business." But his client paints a picture of a woman who has been making some very unwise life choices lately, and she's worried. Once Elvis scratches beneath the surface of Amy's life, her recent lifestyle is far worse than "unwise." Can the World's Greatest Detective help her?

You strip away all the bells, whistles, multi-perspectives, co-mingling of series, and whatnot and you've got yourself a classic, prototypical Elvis Cole story.  There's a missing person that he's hired to find, he goes through a bunch of stuff to find that person  -- ticking off a police department and a criminal enterprise in the  process.  At some point, he finds the person, but also discovers this person is in a world of hurt from the government/the criminals she's crossed paths with, which he will try to extricate them from.  Excitement, deception and bullets ensue.  Pike does his thing.  Elvis does his.  Happy ending -- or as close as you can get in this world we live in.

It's with the bells and whistles that this one stands apart from your usual Elvis Cole book -- which is both a good and a bad thing for the book.

Good, because we got to see so many characters that we enjoy and/or love interacting and teaming up.

But . . .

For the first few chapters it didn't feel right -- as an Elvis Cole book, it worked as a suspense novel -- there was just too much bouncing around between the various point-of-view characters.  By chapter 6 or 7, things settled down and back to what it should be.  Still, The Promise probably stretches the limit of acceptable point-of-view characters: Mr. Rollins (the criminal we meet in the opening pages), Elvis, Joe, Jon Stone, Scott, and even Maggie -- we're an imp, a bastard and a khaleesi short of George R. R. Martin epic.*

It's in trying to serve all these characters that the novel struggles -- for example, I could've used more Pike.  Sure, he's effective when he's around -- but he's barely around. After bringing in Jon Stone, Pike's more of a backup than anything else -- okay, fine, this was Stone's kind of work. But still, if it's listed as a Joe Pike novel we should see Joe do some Pike-level stuff.  I don't even think that Elvis said anything about him twitching the corner of his mouth in response to a joke!  That might even disqualify it as an Elvis Cole.

Now, the Jon Stone material -- especially his POV chapters -- was great, and if it hadn't been at the expense of Pike, I would write a healthy paragraph praising it. 

The Maggie and Scott story might have been the most compelling part of the book.  Scratch that, for me (at least, your mileage may vary) the Maggie and Scott story was the most compelling part of the book. It was fairly predictable, but executed so well that you just don't care. This is a problem when they're not the central figures in the book.  I think the novel suffered from Spider-Man 3 Syndrome** -- just too many characters running around to do a good job with. 

I got enough of the Maggie and Scott material, same for the Jon Stone (except for the bit that you're designed to want more of).  But I needed more Joe being Joe, I wanted more Joe/Elvis interaction, more Elvis/Scott, more Elvis investigating, more -- well, more Elvis, I guess is what I'm saying. Every time it seemed that the story was picking up steam and we were on track, we got someone else's POV and had to start building momentum again.

Don't get me wrong, I talked so much about the problems I had to fully explain them -- I really enjoyed it, I just didn't love it.  After waiting so long, you'd hoped that this would've been dazzlingly great, instead The Promise will have to settle for being very enjoyable.  Like I said at the outset, it's a classic Elvis Cole story -- and there are few things I'd rather read. I'm looking forward to re-reading this in a year or so, and I may put up a more favorable post when I do.

* Okay, now that I'm thinking about it, who wouldn't love to see Joe Pike smack Joffrey around a little bit?
* I'd call it Batman Forever or Batman and Robin Syndrome, but those two had much worse problems than a plethora of characters