(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

During the 1990’s, Robert Crais wrote a series of detective stories featuring Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Abandoning a successful formula, his Demolition Angel (2000), featured a female member of the Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad. Hostage is another departure from his Cole-Pike format. Jeff Talley, a one-time hostage specialist with the LAPD, suffered professional and personal burn-out when one of his cases resulted in the death of a young boy.

Fleeing his problems, he becomes chief of the small police force in an upper-middle class community near Los Angeles where the affluent attempt to escape from today’s urban problems, as has Talley himself. However, three young drifters, one of whom is a psychopath, rob a convenience store, killing the owner. Their vehicle breaks down, and to obtain another, they enter a nearby house, where two children and their father are at home. The police are quickly on the scene and the killers’ escape is blocked, but they have hostages.

Talley is thus again thrust into a crisis involving children. The plot is further complicated because the father is the accountant for several organized crime figures. Learning about the event through television, the Mafioso are determined to recover two computer disks containing their financial records. They kidnap Talley’s wife and daughter, threatening to kill them if Talley does not help them. Even some of his fellow police officers have been suborned by the Mafia, compounding Talley’s tasks, which include freeing the hostages, saving his family, and not surrendering the disks.

Hostage proves that you can run but you cannot always hide. Through his clever plotting, Crais keeps the reader turning the pages until the final denouement. In the end good triumphs over evil, but along the way things are suitably doubtful.