I would not be the first to draw comparisons between Robert B. Parker's Spenser/Hawk characters and Robert Crais' dynamic duo, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Both lead detectives are witty, macho-yet-vulnerable, insightful and exceptionally verbal (both series are written in the first person, as all good P.I. series should be). The sidekicks are somewhat private and remote, loyal to a fault and cooler than anyone we know. This age-old formula dates back at least to the Lone Ranger and Tonto, if not to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. That said, in the right hands, it is brilliant setup, and Robert Crais owns a pair of the right hands. In the eighth installment of the Elvis Cole series, The Forgotten Man, our hero receives a middle-of-the-night phone call; it seems that a mortally wounded man has told police officers that he is looking for his estranged son, Elvis Cole. Cole never knew his father, purportedly an itinerant "human cannonball" in a traveling circus, and he is cautiously intrigued. With the aid of the aforementioned Joe Pike and L.A. policewoman Carol Starkey, Cole launches an investigation into the identity of the dead man. There is more at play here than Cole knows, however, and he soon finds himself the target of a psychopathic killer, apparently somehow related to the man claiming to be Cole's father. The Forgotten Man delves more deeply into the past of Elvis Cole than any of the previous installments, giving the reader insight into the events that led him to his investigative career. A crackling storyline and vivid supporting characters make this book one of the best yet in the popular series.

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