Review

The Forgotten Man

by Robert Crais



There was a stretch of time when I didn't read Robert Crais's Elvis
Cole novels. My reasoning was that any book featuring a protagonist
named "Elvis" was probably semi-satirical, in the Carl Hiaasen
sense, and I didn't want any more of that. I don't recall precisely
when the scales fell from my eyes, but after checking one out, I
basically set everything else aside and read the entire backlist.
Semi-satirical? Forget it. This is heart of darkness
territory.

Elvis Cole is damaged goods wrapped in a nice, attractive box. He
is a private investigator who gets the job done, but not without
leaving part of himself behind. Crais uses southern California in
general and Los Angeles in particular as a background for Cole
(and, incidentally, as a visitor's guide for the reader), an uneasy
setting upon which Cole can both blend and clash, sometimes
simultaneously.

THE FORGOTTEN MAN begins with an enigmatic but ultimately important
prologue concerning the fearsome aftermath of an apparent home
invasion that leaves behind a lone survivor by accident rather than
through intent. The novel proper begins with Cole being awakened by
an early morning phone call that ushers him to a nightmarish
scenario. A man has been shot in a nondescript alleyway in downtown
Los Angeles. The victim has no identification, but the police
officer on the scene reports that with his dying breath the victim
said that he was looking for his son, Elvis Cole.

Cole, who never knew his father, is torn between pursuing the
identity of the dead man and allowing his naturally suspicious
nature to hold him back. His investigation is a slippery slope: the
deeper he delves into the background of the mysterious stranger,
the less convinced he becomes that the man is his father. Yet his
need to determine who and what the man is becomes more and more
compelling.

Joe Pike, Cole's de facto partner in his detective agency,
is willing to help as always, and his simmering, dangerous presence
is a welcome foil to Cole's occasional impulsive excesses. But Cole
has no way of knowing that his investigation is about to unearth a
monster who has been confined, if not held in check, and who is now
pursuing Cole with a haunting deliberateness.

THE FORGOTTEN MAN is Crais at his quietly brilliant best, where
each turn of the page potentially hides a bombshell revelation in
stark, beautiful, and memorable prose. This one is a winner in
every sense of the word. Absolutely not to be missed.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

The Forgotten Man
by Robert Crais

  • Publication Date: January 31, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345451910
  • ISBN-13: 9780345451910