Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hostage by Robert Crais

Title: Hostage
Author: Robert Crais
Publisher: Doubleday (2001)

No stranger to Crais' back list, I was happy to delve in for this month's pick... but then saddened to see that it's the last of his back list that I hadn't read. So hats off to Michael for getting us back to one of our favorite authors (and, if memory serves, the author that drew us together in the first place oh so many moons ago). Now I join the rest of his fans in having no choice but to wait for each year's new release. One other sad note in an otherwise very positive month is that I was unable to attend this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I missed the books but I missed the comradery most of all and I hope all my book buddies had a wonderful time.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here.

Click here for Michael's film review of Hostage

From the author's website: "Jeff Talley was a good husband, a fine father, and a front line negotiator with LAPD's SWAT unit. But the high-stress, unforgiving job took an irreparable toll on his psyche. Unable to talk down a despondent father before he murders his wife and son and takes his own life, Talley plummets into a downward spiral. His marriage ends, he resigns from SWAT, and he struggles to escape from his former life by taking the chief-of-police job in a sleepy, affluent bedroom community far from the chaos and crime of Los Angeles."

Escape turns out to be impossible when a trio trying to flee a crime scene end up invading a local home and taking the family hostage.

The set-up seems straight-forward but becomes more complicated with each chapter. I find the complications enjoyable and so don't want to spoil them here. I only mention them because RC never allows the reader to get lost in the tangles. His signature snappy pace is also on display here which results in an involved plot with lots of characters reading like his usual page turners.

The POV shifts throughout the novel but predominately remains with Talley. He's a good character to spend the novel with but not great. He has a lot of depth but not many layers making it difficult to become really attached to him. As in, I was never really that worried about him or his outcome (or the outcome of his family). It's probably a weird thing to complain about but he was just too good and in this type of book Good rarely gets punished. It's not that I want good people to be punished but when, as a reader, you're not even concerned it sets a distance between you and the character. (I realize this view probably has a nonsensical component to it when I'm talking about a book in which multiple people get taken hostage but I hope my perspective makes sense in a narrative way.)

As I mentioned above, this book has a large cast of characters and they are handled deftly as the action proceeds but I found it heavy-handed in the back story department. Around 3/4 of the way through I really didn't care anymore whose mom/dad/guardian had done what resulting in weird behavior. And [MILD SPOILER] I continue to assert that RC does not like our courts muddled up with trials for Bad People. Has anyone else noticed his downright Shakespearean endings?

Despite not being particularly worried about our main character the dramatic tension was held throughout. Even though I was 99.9% sure who would survive and who wouldn't the pace of the novel kept me extremely interested in how it would all unfold. I'll take that in a thriller any day.

So about the movie... well, let's leave that for Michael's post.

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coming up next:

Contact by Carl Sagan

Links to previous joint posts: 


  1. Great look at this, Rachel. It was fun to go back and re-read this. It's an entertaining thriller. Solid, but as you say not great. I think the two things I noticed in this look back was a) the number of times a certain F-word was used (by everyone, it seems), and b) the use of 'leave go'. The latter stuck out as I, or anyone else I know, uses that form. I had to look the usage up:

    ""On the less sophisticated levels of American speech, leave is a popular substitute for let. On educated levels, the following distinction is carefully observed: let means allow; leave means depart. (There are a few idiomatic exceptions to this rule, but they present no problem.) 'Let me go' is preferable to 'Leave me go' even on the most informal of occasions, and a sentence like 'Leave us not mention it' is not considered standard English."
    (Norman Lewis, Word Power Made Easy. Simon & Schuster, 1979)"

    So, besides being entertained, I got enlighten ;-). That Bob! He gets to hook us in so many ways. Glad you enjoyed the selection, but yes it is sad when you reach this point as a reader of Robert Crais. Waiting, impatiently, for his next new novel.

    Wonderful review, Rachel.

  2. Thanks, Michael,

    Do you know I didn't even notice the F bombs? Either I'm used to reading them or it reflects how often I drop them myself. Hmmm...

    And I have to double up on that unobservant stuff (thank goodness I'm a scientist... oh wait!) as I didn't notice the leave go either. I'm familiar with the phrase even if I don't use it often so maybe it went through my filter. But I'm glad you shared so we both get to learn something from it. :)

    Things that stuck our for me were how ick it would be to live in a house with cameras everywhere! Even in the bedrooms! And the ending with Jeff and his wife. I liked seeing them together but also seeing them trying to build together. There was no insta-fix to what they had been through. I thought that was a nice touch.

    What'd you think about how the Sheriff and Talley interacted? Did that tip you off to her being the mole or did you find it believable?

  3. Agreed about the use of invasive cameras. Although, it made for a believable and entertaining part of the plot. The book's ending was good for being realistic in that there's no insta-fix in such a situation. I just admire the film's finale better for the dispatch of the assh#!e henchman by Talley. It made for an emotionally satisfying ending what with him getting his family (his girls) back in his arms for a moving reconciliation.

    When I first read this, I kinda forgot about 'they' had their person on the ground feeding them intel after things got really going. So when the Sheriff comes out, it was a good twist. On second reading, less so. But then I knew it was coming and I started to look for clues. By the way, as Elyse has reminded me. Pay attention to page 21. I can say no more.

    Thanks, Rachel.

  4. Very nice! I can't believe I didn't notice that the first time around.