Book Review: L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais (1999)

L.A. Requiem is a detective novel by Robert Crais published in 1999. It is the 8th in the series that centers on Elvis Cole, a private detective of the hard-boiled ilk in Los Angeles, California. Cole is brought into the mysterious death of Karen Garcia by his business partner, long-time friend and former Police Officer, Joe Pike.

Pike has a history with Garcia and her family, and as the investigation heats up more connections are made between Pike, his former LAPD partner and other recent murder victims who were killed in the same way as Garcia.

This novel does not waste any time getting to the murder at the center of the storyline. The story moves along quickly from the initial discovery of Garcia’s murder through suspects, and additional victims, which tests the trust and loyalty in Cole and Pike’s friendship and romantic entanglements with the women in their lives both past and present. I enjoyed the pace of the story as there was never a dull moment and each scene moved things forward.

Another aspect I enjoyed was that the city of Los Angeles felt like its own character. As a former resident of Los Angeles, I felt that the author’s atmospheric descriptions were spot on.

“The Santa Anas were gone, but the stillness made me think that they would return. The air is never more still in Los Angeles than in those moments before the wind screams down on us again, once more torching the world into flame. Maybe the stillness is a warning.” (Page 172)

This passage reminded me of the distinct feeling that could make the hair on my arms stand up when the wind shifted. It’s a sense of foreboding that was perfect for the tone of the novel, and that I have only felt in that city. But it made me wonder if other readers would have the same physical reaction if they haven’t experienced it themselves.

The weakest point in the novel is Cole’s girlfriend Lucy and her son Ben. They appear to exist solely to create a weak spot for Cole. Not enough background or character development exists for either Lucy or Ben to justify their involvement. The fact that he’s in a relationship with Lucy gives a plausible excuse for why he does not pursue another woman, despite the ample opportunity, but he does not prioritize his relationship with Lucy in other aspects of his life. And the existence of Ben is exploited by the killer as a brief red herring threat that ultimately doesn’t serve much purpose to the plot.

I would recommend this novel to a reader who enjoys suspense and is looking for a story that will keep them interested, but also someone who isn’t too hung up on character development.

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