Talk about an enjoyable read. This novel has it all: Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, innocent young adults, a determined parent, evil men and women with no sense of morality, and bajadores - ruthless bandits who prey on other bandits. Mix them all together with drugs, weapons, the buying and selling of victims, and brutal murder and you have the ingredients for compelling novel.
Add the painstaking detective work, the genuine humanity, the nerve-racking tension, the thrilling action, and unbelievable suspense that only a talented writer like Robert Crais can bring to this novel and you have a thriller that you won't soon forget.
Taken is the fifteenth Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel and it's the first to feature them both equally. While I've enjoyed the last two books that had Joe Pike in the starring role, this novel ratchets up the tension by having Cole lead early and Pike take over in the second half.
The story centers on a young Latina and her Anglo boyfriend who are kidnapped by bandits along the Mexican border. These criminals are the worst of the worst - preying on other criminals figuring they can't or won't go to the police. This novel centers on bajadores who steal immigrants bound for the United States. This people kidnapping business is a rampant but often ignored problem along the Mexican border.
The mother of the kidnapped woman hires Elvis Cole to rescue her daughter. Cole soon discovers what has happened to her and he enters into a risky arrangement with a Korean organized criminal. It's a desperate move and Cole knows it.
"I was now in business with a Korean gang known for extortion, brutality, and violence, and about to put my trust into a drug cartel known for torture and mass murder. I told myself it was worth it. I told myself I had no choice. I lied to myself, and knew I was lying, but chose to believe the lies."
When the plan doesn't work out, Cole is seized by the bajadores and Pike must come to his rescue. With backup from fellow mercenary Jon Stone, Pike follows the trail left by his captors and holds nothing back from search for his best friend. The feds are also on the hunt for Cole and Pike must find him first before the federal agents make mistakes that could blow Cole's cover - and his life.
This is vintage Robert Crais weaving one of the most suspenseful thrillers I've read in a long time. This is a book you'll want to savor but if you're like me, the tension will build so quickly that you'll be unable to put it down. I finished it in a weekend. With fewer things to do, I'd have been done the same day.