Book Review: Taken by Robert Crais

I have no criticisms of Robert Crais' writing, other than I wish he could write as fast as I devour his work, which would require him to crank out -- at the very least -- a new book every week.

Taken, Crais' fifteenth novel featuring Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, confronts the controversial subject of illegal immigration from a different angle, explaining how some of these people (many without a word of English and penniless) are smuggled into the U.S. amidst countless obstacles. When honor student Krista Morales and her boyfriend Jack Berman inadvertently fall into the hands of criminals who kidnap illegal immigrants as they enter the U.S., Krista's mother hires Elvis Cole to find her daughter and the chase is on.

The young couple has been kidnapped by bajadores -- criminals who prey on other criminals --who are led by a vicious killer known only as The Syrian. Cole makes quick contact with the kidnappers, but is abducted himself and task of saving everyone falls to Joe Pike.

Most successful novelists in the crime fiction genre follow a template and deliver the same format year after year. Crais changes gears in Taken, and Joe and Elvis share equal time in the book. As an additional treat, Crais brings back Jon Stone ("he's become one of my most popular characters") who helps Pike find Elvis. We also learn more about Stone, who turns out to be a Princeton graduate with a photographic memory.

Crais keeps the reader off-balance with a timeline that bounces from present to past and back again, along with interesting, unexpected plot twists and a breathless pace that makes you feel as if you're smack in the middle of an action film.

In Taken, Elvis Cole explains that his self-described "World's Greatest Detective" moniker is meant as a joke. Well, I am stating for the record that Robert Crais is hands-down the World's Greatest Crime Fiction Writer, and that is no joke.