4.2 57
by Robert Crais

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The bestselling author of Demolition Angel and L.A. Requiem returns with his most intense and intricate thriller yet.

As the Los Angeles Times said, Robert Crais is “a crime writer operating at the top of his game.” His complex heroes and heroines, his mastery of noir atmosphere, and his brilliant, taut plots have

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The bestselling author of Demolition Angel and L.A. Requiem returns with his most intense and intricate thriller yet.

As the Los Angeles Times said, Robert Crais is “a crime writer operating at the top of his game.” His complex heroes and heroines, his mastery of noir atmosphere, and his brilliant, taut plots have catapulted him into the front rank of a new breed of thriller writers. Hostage proves his earlier success was no fluke. It’s an unstoppable read.

An ex-con with delusions of grandeur and his tagalong brother unwittingly team up with a psychopath one wrong word away from meltdown. When their late afternoon joyride turns into a random act of violence, they take a family hostage in the affluent bedroom community of Bristo Camino. Enter Chief of Police Jeff Talley, a stressed-out former LAPD SWAT negotiator who is hiding from his past. Plunged back into the high-pressure world that he desperately wants to forget, Talley soon learns that his nightmare has only begun.

The hostages are not who they seem, and the home contains secrets that even L.A.’s most lethal and volatile crime lord, Sonny Benza, fears. As Talley tries to hold himself together and save the people inside, the full weight of Benza’s wrath descends on him, putting the police chief and his own family at risk. Soon, all involved are held hostage by the exigencies of fate and the only one capable of diffusing the standoff is the least stable of them all.

Hostage is a blistering stand-alone thriller with superb characters in crisis, multistranded plotting, and pitch-perfect Southern California sensibility.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title of Crais's fiery third thriller (after L.A. Requiem and Demolition Angel) can refer not just to the two sets of innocents held at gunpoint in the story but to the reader, who will be wired tight to the book. The novel launches with a familiar (as familiar as Demolition Angel) premise: a soul-scarred cop here, former L.A. SWAT hostage negotiator Jeff Talley, now chief of police of smalltown Bristo Bay, Calif. plunges into an assignment that forces him to confront his demons. The devil clawing Talley's brain is the dying gaze of a young hostage he failed to save in L.A. Now three outlaws two lowlife brothers and a homicidal maniac have, after botching a robbery-homicide, taken refuge in a swank house in Bristo Bay. At their mercy are the family's dad, whom they've knocked unconscious, and his teen daughter and preteen son. The whopper of a complication is that the dad serves as bookkeeper for Sonny Benza, West Coast mob kingpin, and Benza will do whatever's necessary to retrieve the incriminatory records secreted in the house before the cops storm the place. The narrative ticks with suspense as Talley negotiates with the three outlaws, and as they and the kids they're holding respond with panic, fear and courage to the escalating tension. It snaps into overdrive as Benza and his goons snatch Talley's wife and daughter, holding them ransom for the records; the flow is marred only by a couple of cheap turns obviously devised for the silver screen. Thriller vets will have seen a lot of this before, but every virtuoso is allowed variations on a theme, and Crais, with his record and with the smart suspense offered here, has proven himself nothing less. (On-sale date: Aug. 7) Forecast:Crais sells more with each title, and this will prove no exception. A 15-city author tour will enhance his visibility, as will forthcoming film versions of Demolition Angel and of Hostage, which has already been bought for Bruce Willis and MGM; Crais is writing the screenplays for both films. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Hostage negotiator Jim Talley, traumatized by a crisis gone bad, has left not only his SWAT job but his family as well, hiding out as chief of police in a small town. When a robbery gets out of control and three would-be thieves become killers, they hide in a house in Talley's jurisdiction, taking a family of three hostage. Worse, one of the hostages is the bookkeeper for a mob boss who, rightly worried that his secrets and $1.2 million in cash are at risk, tracks down Talley's wife and daughter for hostages of his own. Sound a little, well, unlikely? Oh, and one of the robbers is a psycho serial killer who keeps his mother's head in the freezer. Crais ratchets up the suspense about as far as it will go here but, sadly, declines to invest his characters with any attributes deeper than a name and a role (born loser, stressed cop, mob boss, psycho killer, spoiled teen). There are some nice insights into hostage negotiation, though, in the end, it all seems to come down to shouting the obvious. Reader James Daniels does his best with these stereotypes, while suffusing the story with real urgency. Had Crais made us care about any of his characters, this would easily have risen above the level of an optional purchase.-John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Efficient, forgettable formula suspense in the Desperate Hours mold from a writer who's done much better work. The bad news for Jeff Talley, the crisis negotiator who left an LAPD SWAT team-and incidentally his wife and daughter-to become chief of the police force in safely suburban Bristo Camino, is that a trio of small-time crooks, incapable of holding up a local convenience store without shooting the owner, has gone to ground in George Smith's house, taking Smith and his two children-Jennifer, 16, and Thomas, 10-captive. The worse news is that although two of the three wanted men, Dennis Rooney and his kid brother Kevin, are nothing but penny-ante losers, the third, Mars Krupchek, is a full-blown psycho with a lovingly detailed history of torture killings. The even worse news is that inoffensive George Smith is actually a mob accountant for L.A. crimelord Sonny Benza, a man who'll do whatever it takes to make sure his men are the first people inside the Smith house to clear it of incriminating evidence, and who's not going to let any police chief, certainly not anybody with an abductable wife and daughter, get in his way. Crais keeps the pot at a constant boil by switching focus every few paragraphs from the deviously plotting mobsters to the panicking perps to the hostages who keep trying fancy maneuvers that are 100% guaranteed to make their captors really, really mad. But since nobody involved has any human reality beyond the requirements of the situation, the suspense, though considerable, is a lot more synthetic than in Demolition Angel (2000). Connoisseurs will have no trouble predicting a finale awash in corpses, every one of them richly deserving of its gory fate. Film rightshave already been sold to MGM. If you wait for the movie, you'll see Bruce Willis, and you won't miss a thing.

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.98(d)

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*† *† *
The man in the house was going to kill himself. When the man threw his phone into the yard, Talley knew that he had accepted his own death. After six years as a crisis negotiator with the Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT team, Sergeant Jeff Talley knew that people in crisis often spoke in symbols. This symbol was clear: Talk was over. Talley feared that the man would die by his own hand, or do something to force the police to kill him. It was called suicide by cop. Talley believed it to be his fault.
"Did they find his wife yet?"
"Not yet. They're still looking."
"Looking doesn't help, Murray. I gotta have something to give this guy after what happened."
"That's not your fault."
is my fault. I blew it, and now this guy is circling the drain."
Talley crouched behind an armored command vehicle with the SWAT commander, a lieutenant named Murray Leifitz, who was also his negotiating team supervisor. From this position, Talley had spoken to George Donald Malik through a dedicated crisis phone that had been cut into the house line. Now that Malik had thrown his phone into the yard, Talley could use the public address megaphone or do it face-to-face. He hated the megaphone, which made his voice harsh and depersonalized the contact. The illusion of a personal relationship was important; the illusion of trust was everything. Talley strapped on a kevlar vest.
Malik shouted through the broken window, his voice high and strained.
"I'm going to kill this dog! I'm going to kill it!"
Leifitz leaned past Talley to peek at the house. This was the first time Malik had mentioned a dog.
"What the fuck? Does he have a dog in there?"
"How do I know? I've got to try to undo some of the damage here, okay? Ask the neighbors about the dog. Get me a name."
"If he pops a cap, we're going in there, Jeff. That's all there is to it."
"Just take it easy and get a name for the dog."
Leifitz scuttled backward to speak with Malik's neighbors.

George Malik was an unemployed house painter with too much credit card debt, an unfaithful wife who flaunted her affairs, and prostate cancer. Fourteen hours earlier, at two-twelve that morning, he had fired one shot above the heads of the police officers who had come to his door in response to a disturbance complaint. He then barricaded the door and threatened to kill himself unless his wife agreed to speak to him. The officers who secured the area ascertained from neighbors that Malik's wife, Elena, had left with their only child, a nine-year-old boy named Brendan. As detectives from Rampart Division set about locating her, Malik threatened suicide with greater frequency until Talley was convinced that Malik was nearing the terminal point. When the Rampart detectives reported what they believed to be a solid location obtained from the wife's sister, Talley took a chance. He told Malik that his wife had been found. That was Talley's mistake. He had violated a cardinal rule of crisis negotiation: He had lied, and been caught. He had made a promise that he had been unable to deliver, and so had destroyed the illusion of trust that he had been building. That was two hours ago, and now word had arrived that the wife had still not been found.
"I'm gonna kill this fuckin' dog, goddamnit! This is her goddamned dog, and I'm gonna shoot this sonofabitch right in the head, she don't start talkin' to me!"
Talley stepped out from behind the vehicle. He had been on the scene for eleven hours. His skin was greased with sweat, his head throbbed, and his stomach was cramping from too much coffee and stress. He made his voice conversational, yet concerned.
"George, it's me, Jeff. Don't kill anything, okay? We don't want to hear a gun go off."
"You liar! You said my wife was gonna talk to me!"
It was a small stucco house the color of dust. Two casement windows braced the front door above a tiny porch. The door was closed, and drapes had been pulled across the windows. The window on the left was broken from the phone. Eight feet to the right of the porch, a five-member SWAT Tactical Team hunkered against the wall, waiting to breach the door. Malik could not be seen.
"George, listen, I said that we'd found her, and I want to explain that. I was wrong. We got our wires crossed out here, and they gave me bad information. But we're still looking, and when we find her, we'll have her talk to you."

"You lied before, you bastard, and now you're lying again. You're lying to protect that bitch, and I won't have it. I'm gonna shoot her dog and then I'm gonna blow my brains out."
Talley waited. It was important that he appear calm and give Malik the room to cool. People burned off stress when they talked. If he could reduce Malik's level of stress, they could get over the hump and still climb out of this.
"Don't shoot the dog, George. Whatever's between you and your wife, let's not take it out on the dog. Is it your dog, too?"
"I don't know whose fuckin' dog it is. She lied about everything else, so she probably lied about the dog. She's a natural born liar. Like you."
"George, c'mon. I was wrong, but I didn't lie. I made a mistake. A liar wouldn't admit that, but I want to be straight with you. Now, I'm a dog guy myself. What kind of dog you got in there?"
"I don't believe you. You know right where she is, and unless you make her talk to me, I'm gonna shoot this dog."
The depths to which people sank in the shadowed crevasses of desperation could crush a man as easily as the weight of water at the ocean floor. Talley had learned to hear the pressure building in people's voices, and he heard it now. Malik was being crushed.
"Don't give up, George. I'm sure that she'll talk to you."
"Then why won't she open her mouth? Why won't the bitch just say something, that's all she's gotta do?"
"We'll work it out."
"Say something, goddamnit!"
"I said we'll work it out."
"Say something or I'm gonna shoot this damned dog!"
Talley took a breath, thinking. Malik's choice of words left him confused. Talley had spoken clearly, yet Malik acted as if he hadn't heard. Talley worried that Malik was dissociating or approaching a psychotic break.
"George, I can't see you. Come to the window so I can see you."
"George, please come to the window!"
Talley saw Leifitz return to the rear of the vehicle. They were close, only a few feet apart, Leifitz under cover, Talley exposed.
Talley spoke under his breath.

"What's the dog's name?"
Leifitz shook his head.
"They say he doesn't have a dog."
Something hard pounded in the center of Talley's head, and his back felt wet. He suddenly realized that illusions worked both ways. The Rampart detectives hadn't found Malik's wife because Malik's wife was inside. The neighbors were wrong. She had been inside the entire time. The wife and the boy.
"Murray, launch the team!"
Talley shouted at Murray Leifitz just as a loud whipcrack echoed from the house. A second shot popped even as the Tactical Team breached the front door.
Talley ran forward, feeling weightless. Later, he would not remember jumping onto the porch or entering through the door. Malik's lifeless body was pinned to the floor, his hands being cuffed behind his back even though he was already dead. Malik's wife was sprawled on the living room sofa where she had been dead for over fourteen hours. Two tac officers were trying to stop the geyser of arterial blood that spurted from the neck of Malik's nine-year-old son. One of them screamed for the paramedics. The boy's eyes were wide, searching the room as if trying to find a reason for all this. His mouth opened and closed; his skin luminous as it drained of color. The boy's eyes found Talley, who knelt and rested a hand on the boy's leg. Talley never broke eye contact. He didn't allow himself to blink. He let Brendan Malik have that comfort as he watched the boy die.
After a while, Talley went out to sit on the porch. His head buzzed like he was drunk. Across the street, police officers milled by their cars. Talley lit a cigarette, then replayed the past eleven hours, looking for clues that should have told him what was real. He could not find them. Maybe there weren't any, but he didn't believe that. He had blown it. He had made mistakes. The boy had been here the entire time, curled at the feet of his murdered mother like a loyal and faithful dog.
Murray Leifitz put a hand on his shoulder and told him to go home.
Jeff Talley had been a Los Angeles SWAT officer for thirteen years, serving as a Crisis Response Team negotiator for six. Today was his third crisis call in five days.
He tried to recall the boy's eyes, but had already forgotten if they were brown or blue.
Talley crushed his cigarette, walked down the street to his car, and went home. He had an eleven-year-old daughter named Amanda. He wanted to check her eyes. He couldn't remember their color and was scared that he no longer cared.

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