Elvis Cole runs a PI agency in LA with the silent, brooding Joe Pike. Both are former elite soldiers and are highly skilled investigators. When Karen Garcia goes missing her father calls on Pike, a former lover of Garcia, to find her. A few hours later she's found next to a lake, shot in the head. The investigation is to be conducted by detectives from Robbery-Homicide headed up by the weasely Krantz. Pike and Krantz have a troubled history stretching back to when Pike was a rookie cop and his partner was under investigation by internal affairs. Garcia's father has some political juice and uses his influence to allow Cole and Pike to shadow the police investigation. Frustrated by Krantz's lack of cooperation and ineptness they strike out on their own, quickly discovering that Garcia was the fifth victim of a serial killer, one who seems determined to exact revenge for some unknown reason.
Without wishing to offend either author, LA Requiem reminded a lot of Michael Connelly's LA stories, especially those concerning Harry Bosch. The writing style, setting and focus seemed very similar to me - LA, Robbery-Homicide, serial killer, investigators who are Vietnam vets. This is no bad thing as I think both are very fine writers, rather just an observation. LA Requiem rattles along at quick, steady pace. Crais writes with an assured hand. The story is well crafted, with a nice layering of various subplots and back story that add to the overall narrative rather than detracting from it. Crais paints a good sense of place, the characters are well penned, and the story builds to a nice climax. There were a few elements that unsettled me a little, however. Maybe it's because I don't live in the US, but I had a hard time believing that two private investigators could get any meaningful access to a serial killer investigation, especially not through a councilman (perhaps maybe something more significant like a governor I could have gone along with). The Samantha Dolan character didn't quite seem to ring true, especially in her quest for Cole. And regardless of any material evidence relating to Pike, the fact that he escaped from incarceration would have legal consequences. Despite the niggling doubts about credibility, LA Requiem is an enjoyable read and I'll be looking out for other Elvis Cole books.