Taken by Robert Crais

Taken by Robert Crais“Got you.” – Joe Pike

Two words. Two very simple, straightforward words. And yet they may well mark the most important moment in the entirety of the fifteen books that comprise author Robert Crais’s bestselling Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series.

Taken, the most recent entry, finds private investigator Elvis hired by Nita Morales, a local businesswoman whose daughter has gone missing. Convinced her daughter has merely taken a break from college and run off with her boyfriend, Morales would still like Elvis to track her down.

Elvis’s investigation quickly uncovers disturbing evidence suggesting the young couple was actually abducted by bajadores, modern day highwaymen who target both those trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the coyotes (guides) who transport them. Known to be especially ruthless, bajadores won’t hesitate to kill people they’ve abducted if they’re unable to get their families to pay a ransom.

Enlisting the help of his (very) silent partner Joe Pike, Elvis devises a plan to go undercover and locate not just the missing couple, but a group of over 30 other people who were abducted at the same time. Unfortunately the plan goes sideways and Elvis himself is abducted by the bajadores. But if the bajadores think they’re ruthless, they’ve got another thing coming… Joe Pike. Along with the charismatic and equally deadly Jon Stone (about whom readers are treated to more details than in any of his previous appearances), Pike begins systematically working his way through the bajadores in his quest to rescue Elvis, a man who is not only his friend, but who is arguably his only friend.

Taken works on two levels. On the one hand it tells the sad story of the human trafficking which does, unfortunately, take place nearly daily along the U.S.-Mexico border. Completely within the framework of the story, Crais manages to convey the startling and disturbing details of how the bajadores operate, preying on vulnerable people who are already risking everything they have in order to seek a better life. Yet never does Crais come across as preachy or pushing an agenda. Instead he focuses on the human element, even that of the bajadores, if only to show how they’ve lost their humanity.

On a deeper level, however, Taken is noteworthy for longtime fans of the series as representing the most revealing look to date at the relationship between Elvis and Joe and the depth of their commitment to one another. They are business partners and friends, yes. Deeper than that though, they are really two halves of a whole, neither of whom can ever fully be complete without the other around to bring out the best and offset the worst. So, back to those two words.

“Got you.” As fans of the series are well aware, Pike is a man of (very) few words. He means exactly what he says, and he only says it if absolutely necessary. In fact, the most powerful moments in Taken occur without need of any dialogue at all, including an absolutely brilliant scene in which Pike and Elvis’s cat – both standoffish, scarred, non-verbal creatures by nature – share their distress over Elvis’s absence. Combine that with a deeply moving scene where Pike carries out a common task which symbolizes the uncommon bond between him and Elvis and, well, who the hell needs dialogue? Not Pike. And not Crais either, which demonstrates what an amazingly gifted author he truly is.

It’s also why those two words, when they are spoken by Pike to Elvis, are so powerful… and why nothing more needs to be said.

Taken is available from Putnam (ISBN: 978-0399158278), and you do not have to have read previous entries in the series to enjoy the book. Having said that, if I could only recommend one series to people it would be this one, so if you’re not yet reading it do yourself a favor – and do it right – by going back to the beginning.

Robert Crais is the author of the best-selling Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels. Crais began his career writing scripts for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, and Miami Vice. In the mid-eighties, feeling constrained by the rigid working requirements of Hollywood, Crais created Elvis Cole and Joe Pike in order to deal with themes he could not readily explore on television. The first novel in the series, The Monkey’s Raincoat, won the Anthony and Macavity Awards and was nominated for the Edgar Award. Currently, Robert Crais lives in the Santa Monica mountains with his wife, three cats, and many thousands of books. To learn more about Crais, visit his website.

– Taken by Robert Crais: Read by Luke Daniels –

Those of you who like audiobooks can check out a sample of the Brilliance Audio edition as read by Luke Daniels.

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8 Comments

  • […] White’s review (which includes an extended audiobook […]

  • Pop Culture Nerd

    February 7, 2012 - 6:38 pm

    You not only covered the reasons why this book is so good, you did it without spoilers, which I appreciate despite having read it. Excellent review.

  • Charles Wingfield

    February 4, 2012 - 1:30 am

    I really enjoyed your previous review of The Sentry, but hadn’t yet started on the series. I’ll be remedying that immediately in light of this review.

  • […] Th&#1077 rest &#1110&#1109 here: Taken b&#1091 Robert Crais | Book Reviews b&#1091 Elizabeth A. White | Crime … […]

  • Naomi Johnson

    February 3, 2012 - 8:47 pm

    Great review, Elizabeth! You nailed the two most important scenes for fans of the Pike/Cole friendship. That scene with the cat — great, great writing.

  • le0pard13

    February 3, 2012 - 6:39 pm

    Well done, Elizabeth! I’ll be leaving our man Bob a copy of this at tonight’s book tour stop in Redondo Beach. Glad you included that video/audio snippet. I did this audiobook (practically sped-listen’d the thing) and it’s a great production for the audio fans like me. Thanks.

  • sabrina ogden

    February 3, 2012 - 5:41 pm

    Oh, gah! I’m doomed to fall in love, aren’t I? Excellent review, Elizbeth. Best get my books ordered!

    • Elizabeth A. White

      February 3, 2012 - 5:43 pm

      Oh, absolutely. The only question is which guy you’re gonna love more. 🙂