Stalking The Angel

Stalking The Angel_RobertCrais_425095

“THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR IS DEATH”

4 STARS

Elvis Cole has been hired by the international hotel magnate Bradley Warren to find an original copy of the Japanese Hagakure, which has been stolen from Warren’s safe. Worth over $3M, the Hagakure is a centuries-old document that outlines every aspect of acceptable conduct for the samurai. This national treasure is not owned by Warren but is on loan from the Tashiro family with whom Warren does considerable business.

The theft is already being investigated by the LAPD, but Warren needs the book back in less than a week. The Tashiros are coming to inspect their latest hotel venture in Little Tokyo and to attend the Pacific Men’s Club banquet where Warren is to be named Man of the Month. They expect to see the book there on display and Warren expects Cole to make that happen.

Cole has only been on the job one day when Warren’s wife, Sheila, receives a call threatening to burn down their house with her in it unless Warren stops the search for the book. At this point, Cole brings Joe Pike in on the investigation and for additional security. However, a narcissistic and self-important Warren dismisses the threat out of hand.

It becomes very clear to both Cole and the reader that having someone harm his wife or his 16-year-old daughter, Mimi, will not hurt Warren in the slightest. Also clear is that only a perceived or actual failure in business can cause Warren even a moment of pause. When a second call is received, this time threatening Mimi’s life, Warren simply asks Cole to provide additional presence but business will proceed as usual with no changes to routine or to the awards banquet.

Coincident with the threats, Cole has found a connection between the theft and the LA organization of the Japanese yakuza, a group the news media compares to the American mafia. But Cole quickly learns that the yakuza is far older and far different than any mafia-type syndicate, actually stretching back to the days of the samurai. So for the American branch of the yakuza to have an original copy of what amounts to their ultimate code of ethics and behavior would be a major coup.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW:

Cole and Pike are able to link the theft to Nobu Isida, a yakuza middleman, to Eddie Tang, a young yakuza assassin, and to Yuki Torobuni, the head of the LA yakuza faction. And Cole is systematically narrowing down the book’s location when Mimi goes missing from the hotel just before the awards banquet is to start.

As Cole searches for Mimi now, as well as for the book, he is blindsided when he learns that the teenager is a chameleon – mousy, invisible and somewhat homely by day and an overly made-up femme fatale by night. It seems that she has been a very frequent nighttime visitor to Torobuni’s dance club and is Eddie Tang’s girlfriend.

From this point on, the plot has more twists and turns than a mountain road. They are complicated twists and it is as hard for the reader as it is for Cole to tell truth from lies. And, unfortunately, that old saw about “assumptions” comes back to kick Cole right in the you-know-what. But metaphorical kicks are not the only ones in this book. The fight scenes are MMA caliber and Crais writes them in a manner that is visibly coherent, realistic and violent unto death.

Crais also provides us with our next glimpse into that laconic entity that is Joe Pike. When Cole and Pike locate a translation of the Hagakure rather than the original, Pike becomes absorbed with its tenets. And his new understanding of what drives the samurai plays out quite forcefully in the final fight scene.

Another major scene that Crais creates for Pike occurs at the beginning of Chapter 8. When Cole goes to a firing range to retrieve Pike, he finds him shooting at multiple targets to the beat of Bob Seger’s rendition of “Old Time Rock and Roll.” If you will take a few moments before you start Chapter 8 to preview that song on iTunes and get the beat in your head, when you read the scenario, Crais’ words will jump on to your mental video screen, complete with soundtrack. And you will have an image of Pike and a jaw-dropping respect for his abilities that will stick in your mind for a long time.

As good as the storyline and its overall execution are, two aspects of this book caused me to drop my rating by one star. First, Crais has Cole, in his internal monologues, comment on what he thinks are inane actions or unacceptable comments from other characters by saying “These ___!” or “That ___!” filling in the blank to make phrases like “These cops!”, “These guys!”, “That Bradley!”, or “That Pike!” The first few times this occurred, it was 1980’s colloquialism. The next twenty times, it was annoying. By the fiftieth time, it was absolutely obnoxious.

The second reason for reducing my rating is the title, as in the fact that I can’t reconcile the title with the storyline. “Stalking” meant something considering how long some of the stakeouts that Cole and Pike went on lasted. But “Angel?” Not a clue! Oh, well, that Crais!

Cover Art From Goodreads

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