Voodoo River by Robert Crais: A review
Returning to my reading of Robert Crais's Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, I've reached entry number five, Voodoo River. I think it may be my favorite so far, although it's hard to say just why that is.
It follows the by now familiar formula. Elvis, "The World's Greatest Detective," is hired by someone in trouble, usually a beautiful woman, to extricate her from that trouble. He noodles around doing his detecting thing until he more or less stumbles into a theory of what's going on and how to solve the problem, at which point his more deadly partner, Joe Pike, enters the game and the two of them clean up Dodge, usually with a lot of gunfire involved.
I think perhaps my liking of this book may have something to do with its setting. Most of the action takes place in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, places that I have visited and have some familiarity with, so perhaps it was easier for me to enter into the action. Anyway, for whatever reason, it was an entertaining read.
The story this time is that Elvis is contacted by television star Jodie Taylor and her agent Sid to look into Jodie's past. She was adopted as a baby back in Louisiana and has no idea who her birth parents were. Now she wants to find out about her biological background and she hires Elvis for the job.
Elvis heads to Baton Rouge where he meets the lawyer representing Jodie's interests there, Lucy Chenier. There is an instant attraction between the two and it is clear where this is headed.
Elvis begins his investigation and soon starts to turn up evidence of a darker reality that is happening among the bayous around Baton Rouge, something more complicated than the biological history of one thirty-six year old woman.
He notices that there seem to be an unusually large number of Hispanics working in the area. A bit more digging reveals that there is a flourishing human smuggling operation going on that brings undocumented immigrants up the river from the Gulf Coast to work processing fish and crayfish. The immigrants are under the radar with no protection of the law and they are being terribly exploited and sometimes killed. It's an injustice that Elvis Cole, Righter of Wrongs, cannot let stand.
Soon Joe Pike arrives on the scene and the action kicks up a notch.
Meanwhile, Elvis has uncovered the history and origins of his client. (Well, actually, a local PI uncovered it and Elvis stole the information from his office files, but let's not quibble over details.) Once again things get complicated as it develops that the local PI was trying to blackmail Elvis' client with the information that would have been shameful 36 years before and still might cause some problems in 1995 when this book was written. It's interesting to contemplate how things have changed in the last twenty-one years. Things that might then have been considered scandalous no longer are.
As always, Crais keeps the plot moving along briskly. It's a plot that has a lot of meat on it with interracial relationships and mixed race children, as well as the element of the smuggling and exploitation of immigrants. Moreover, the two new characters, Lucy Chenier and her son, are appealing and serve to give a bit more depth to Elvis' personality. From what I understand, these become recurring characters, so it will be interesting to see how those relationships develop in future books.
All in all, a very satisfying read. The bad guys get their comeuppance. Righteousness reigns in the end and once again Elvis Cole has managed to serve his client's interests and to come out smelling like a rose. Not an easy task in hot and humid Louisiana.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars