This mystery is the story of Max Holman, a bank robber who
just been released from prison. The day he gets out, he learns that his estranged son,
who had grown up to be a police officer, was one of four policemen gunned down at a
dry riverbed in LA the night before. Who did the killing, and why? The four police
were not in uniform, apparently they were meeting in the seclude spot to share some
beers while off-duty, that's the official explanation, any way. But Holman doesn't buy
the story. It is clear that the officers were surprised, because none had time to draw
their weapons (I guess even off-duty police carry weapons?) which leads to the obvious
suspicion that they knew the shooter, and let him/her get close without suspecting any
It takes a while for Holman's suspicions to become aroused to the
point where he is convinced that that the homice detectives are lying to him. There is more to the investigation
that a random murder of four policemen. Unfortunately, this leads to a rather slow beginning to
the novel. Holman is an ex-con, and while Crais portrays Holman is a convincing character, Holman is not
a likable guy.
The novel picks up a bit around page 100, when Holman asks ex-FBI agent Kate
Pollard to help him solve the discrepancies he has found in the official story regarding the murders.
Pollard is the agent who captured Holman during a bank robbery and sent him to prison 10 years ago. It
sounds unlikely that Holman would turn to the person who put him away, but Holman is an ex-con with no
allies and so he has no where else to turn.
We quickly learn that there was another set of bank robbers - Marchenko and
Parsons, who successfully made off with 16 million dollars in a string of violent heists (so why did they
keep robbing banks if they already have millions?) But now Marchenko and Parson attempted one heist too
many, and were gunned down at the scene of the crime. The 16 million was never recovered, but it looks
like Holman's son was involved in a plot to find that money.
The end of the novel is pretty good. Once the high stakes get rolling, and Holman
is trying to elude the LAPD while Agent Pollard is being warned off of the case by the FBI - the novel has
some excellent moments of tension and revelation. The ending may be a bit too tidy and neat, but things
usually wrap up nicely in thriller novels.
I think Crais is reputed to be one of the many bright stars in the mystery/thriller
genre right now, so I will try reading a few more of his novels.