Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review: LA Requiem, The Two Minute Rule

Recently finished LA Requiem and The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais. One's an interesting modern take on the hard-boiled private eye genre, the other's a fast-paced page turner about a former bank robber who gets out of jail only to find that his estranged police officer son has been murdered.

In Sum: Both novels are well written. The parts that I saw coming felt right, the author developed some of the main characters in surprising ways, and he had some good twists here and there. Nicely crafted stories that were enjoyable reads.

LA Requiem has a character named Joe Pike who is one of those quasi-superhuman ex-military guys who show up all too often in action fiction. He wears sunglasses all the time, he's extremely fit for his age, he's taciturn, he's a killing machine, he's incredibly stealthy, and he has uncanny powers of observation when it comes to tracking and finding clues. He'd be completely unbearable if he was the main character or if Crais didn't go to the trouble of showing us how lonely Pike's life is and how he's alienated so many of the people around him over the years.

The narrator is a guy named Elvis who is more flawed, though still competent, and easier to like. There's a surrounding cast of characters who are generally interesting, including the LA private eye genre staples of incompetent brown nosing police detective, rich guy with political pull who hires the PIs, and the honest cop who helps the PI protagonist even when doing so might amount to career suicide. In this case, the honest cop is an attractive woman. So while it isn't earth-shattering, it reads a lot like a well-done movie.

The Two-Minute Rule is more original. The main character is flawed but not so much that you find him creepy or pathetic, and you sympathize with his desire to learn why his son, who he remembers as a little boy that he let down, was murdered. And it has a great character in a middle-aged former FBI bank crimes investigator who is struggling as a single mom following her retirement and who proves to be all too eager to get back into the thrill of tracking down felons, as the murders are tied to a big bank heist carried out, ironically, not by a brilliant gang but by two steroid-inflated morons. The main characters are honest about their own flaws and not so caught up in their own little worlds that they can't see the strengths and foibles of those around them. A good story with a couple twists and a satisfying yet generally believable resolution.

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