Florida based Jake Travis, the wise cracking Mission Impossible wannabee introduced in Robert Lane’s debut thriller The Second Letter, returns to look into the disappearance of a young girl after she managed to kill a sleaze ball who attempted to rape her on the beach. Given the positive critical reaction to Travis’s first case, an encore, as I predicted in my review, seemed inevitable. And so when Jake reluctantly takes on the case of Jenny Spenser’s kidnapping in Cooler Than Blood that prediction was validated, at least in part. I also predicted that the future would likely involve problems both earth shaking and convoluted. That part of the prediction, however, proves not quite the case.
The problem in Cooler Than Blood is more personal. And while Jake does mobilize most all of his scattered crew to get to the bottom of the girl’s disappearance, the fate of the world doesn’t quite rest on his shoulders. This is not quite Mission Impossible material. For that I guess, we will have to wait for the next Travis installment.
Here Jake takes the case at the request of the girl’s aunt, a tempting beauty he had had dinner with once, and whose manifest attraction he had managed to resist because of his commitment to his current lady friend. There may be consequences but they won’t be earth shaking. Despite his personal qualms about dealing with her again, Jake promises to look into the case.
Turns out things are never simple, and what starts as the case of a disappearing 18 year old metastasizes into a missing fortune owed to local mobsters, and Travis has to deal with finding their money to find the girl. It is a fast moving story with its share of surprises that may not quite keep the reader guessing, but will end with satisfying closure.
Lane is adept at creating a memorable cast of characters to flesh out his narrative. Whether it be a mob enforcer familiar with Alice in Wonderland, a side kick ready to join him on a trip even without shoes, a partner with alopecia, or a girlfriend who spends her day reading Somerset Maugham, the characters are not the clichés of the conventional thriller. Sure there are the exceptions, but it is Lane’s finesse at characterization that raises his work out of the ordinary.
Predictions? There will be a Jake Travis Three. And perhaps this one will be earth shaking.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0692223932,0615841880]