The Promise
A novel by Robert Crais
Book review by Jules Brenner
Putnam, released 11/10/15, 416 pp., $27.95
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It all started with a drug deal in a dimly lit room at Mr. Rollins' "dingy, one-bedroom bungalow west of Echo Park." In the room was Rollins, dealer/drug middleman, his chemist and, on the selling side, Amy Breslin and companion Charles. Rollins made conversation while everyone waited for the chemist to check out the goods with an ethylene blowtorch and meters. Zero, or 100% clean, he finally declares -- no tags; untraceable.

But, the peculiarity in this scene is the woman. Amy Breslin "was small, round and dumpy" in Rollins' eyes; and very nervous. She claims to have made the drug; and she was there to pitch her ability to supply any quantity to a buyer she approves of. Moreover, she has conditions. "I have to meet them, you know. That's a requirement," she says, warding off Rollins' attempt to lead her out. Who knew someone like her was calling the shots?

Not surprisingly, there's someone else who dearly wants to find Ms. Amy, and that's where sleuth Elvis Cole comes into this slightly weird picture. He's hired by a cash-paying client named Meryl Lawrence to find Amy, her chemical production engineer at Woodson Energy Solutions, which makes explosives. And, now, she's discovered her friend has disappeared with $460,000 of company money!

But it's a secret -- Cole is not to bring in the police. Promising to abide by that demand, Cole takes his $2,000 fee and an address where Lawrence thinks Amy can be found. In Echo Park.

This doesn't turn out so well for Cole since minutes after he knocks and rings the bell of the modest domicile, a police raid on it breaks out, helicopter and cars. Cole watches from his car while the entry is made. Found inside is a dead body and a load of explosives -- enough to "blow up the neighborhood." The resident and owner of all the ordinance takes off like a banshee on a tear.

Cole gets the strong feeling that his client knows more than what she's telling him and, worse, she's put him in the middle of a police raid where he winds up being regarded as a suspect by Major Crimes because of his proximity to the scene.

A positive element comes from his recognition by LAPD K-9 officer Scott James (from Crais' prior novel) and his canine partner, Maggie. With explosives, drugs and a paranoid client, Cole's case will have much use for a team member who can sniff out a suspect or clues.

The case erupts with criminal types -- the murderous Rollins, who has seen Scott and his dog in action and vows to eliminate this threat; and, Amy Breslin most of all! A law abiding woman with vengeance on her mind after a terrorist bombing hit her son. This is a brand new character creation, sympathetic while being misunderstood and, certainly, underestimated.

As the mystery of Amy's whereabouts intentions and the criminal activity intensify, Cole calls in his partner, the inimitable Joe Pike who is a match for any crazed killer. And, he learns enough beyond his client's "intel" to influence the outcome.

Crais' low-brow dialogue is convincing street talk sometimes difficult to make sense of, with abbreviations and special phrases. But, even if you don't savvy a line or two, Crais captures the lingo that feeds and supports the nature of the characters.

Amidst the twists and surprises of an inventive yarn of crime and investigation, Crais offers one more piece of intuitive understanding. He has Scott James, his K-9 officer, deliver a theory of how a dog's mind works and how understanding its mental relationship to its master as an unbreakable bond that proves highly useful in the hunt for criminals.

Mystery fans can be promised a very engaging read.

If you don't yet own The Promise and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.