Voodoo River

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the fifth novel in Robert Crais’s series, detective Elvis Cole is hired by television sitcom star Jodi Taylor and her manager to find the names and medical histories of her birth parents. In a small Louisiana town, Cole discovers that someone else has investigated the same event and has been blackmailing Jodi; he discovers that Jodi’s birth mother was a white teenager, while the father was an equally young black boy. Before Cole can confront the blackmailer, the man is murdered.

Angry at having been lied to, Cole threatens to quit the case; Jodi Taylor flies to Louisiana, and together with her Baton Rouge attorney, a divorcee with whom Cole is beginning an affair, convinces Cole to introduce her to her birth mother, for many years married to a man who now serves as the local sheriff. Cole is led to investigate the death of Jodi Taylor’s birth father, finding that he had been shot to death by the girl’s father, and that the facts of the killing had been covered up ever since, allowing a local crime boss to blackmail the sheriff into turning a blind eye to criminal activities that include importing illegal aliens.

Cole and his laconic partner, Joe Pike, enlist the help of an enemy of the smugglers and set up a trap for the crime boss and other criminals. A corrupt deputy betrays the scheme, which deteriorates into an outburst of violence. Mostly because of Joe Pile’s resourcefulness and the intervention of Cole’s allies, the good guys are saved and the criminals shot or arrested. In all of the novels in this series, the narrative is fast-paced and the plot is clear; the violence is leavened by Cole’s self-deprecating humor.