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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345434494
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/2002
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 115,375
Product dimensions: 4.22(w) x 6.92(h) x 0.93(d)

About the Author

Robert Crais is the author of nine previous novels, including the bestsellers Demolition Angel and L.A. Requiem. Demolition Angel is currently in development as a major motion picture by ColumbiaTriStar and producer Laurence Mark (Jerry McGuire, Finding Forrester).


Los Angeles, California

Date of Birth:

June 20, 1953

Place of Birth:

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


B.S., Louisiana State University, 1976; Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University

Read an Excerpt


*† *† *
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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Hostage 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always been drawn to writer's who have strong characters in their books. I prefer the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books, but Jeff Talley certainly rates as an intelligent, honorable character in a dramatically, chilling book. Like all of the books by Robert Crais, and I have now read all of them, I could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mazda502001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A brilliant thriller - a good page-turner. This is one of his stand-alone novels. Great suspense and very good plot.Back Cover Blurb:Jeff Talley left his high-stress job with the LAPD where he failed to prevent a man from killing his family and then himself. Talley takes the chief-of-police job in a sleepy, affluent suburb, but he is soon plunged back into the high-pressure world he left behind when three young men, fleeing a robbery, burst into a home and take the family hostage.For Talley, the nightmare has barely begun. Because this isn't just any house. It belongs to an accountant who launders money for L.A.'s renegade Mafia family - and they don't want the police involved.....
nakmeister on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Genre: Crime/thrillerSetting: Californian suburb, USANo. of pages: 385Part of a series: noThis is a standalone crime thriller from author Robert Crais, who has been delighting fans for years with many books featuring his detective duo of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.This book follows Jeff Talley, an ex SWAT and hostage negotiator, who after a boy dies on his watch decides to take the sleepy backwater job of police chief in a quiet Californian suburb. Nothing ever happens there, until one nightmare day when armed robbers break into a house and hold the people inside hostage....That short synopsis gives away a lot less than what's on the back of the book - be warned. There's a lot more to the story, several excellent plots fused together to make so much more than your average crime novel. The character of Jeff Talley is a well drawn character, with a believable back story. All of the other characters are convincing too, the bit part characters are not your usual cardboard cut-outs. The writing is high quality without being overly descriptive, and the dialogue is very realistic. The chapters are quite short and snappy, which adds to the book's page turning qualities. I read this book in three days, and was late to work today because I just had to finish it.
caroren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

Excellent thriller which was made into a movie.  One you can't put down!

Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book moved too fast to have any real character development or background. It seems that I just got to understand some things and the book was 2/3 of the way through. The multiple plot lines were interesting, but they seemed to be almost stepping over each other for prominence. There was the 3 hostage takers ¿ losers filled with anger and one with psychosis. The three hostages, dad a mafia slave, the daughter an aspiring bimbo and the son a fat little brat with delusions of grandeur. The mafia guys ¿ one trying to screw the other and keep this problem from getting out. Jeff Tally and his weird emotional problems that he can¿t seem to get over. Hostage taker # 3 turning out not to be who he says but a serial killer on the run who kept his mother¿s head around so she could `watch¿ him commit crimes. The new, cold and controlling cop on the scene who takes over the site. Tally¿s wife and kid snatched as an inducement for Jeff to cooperate with the thugs the mafia would send to get the disks out of the house.What I don¿t undrstand is why the mob flipped out that the disks were there in the first place. They weren¿t likely to be found or looked at no matter what so having to launch an attack to get them out. That was weird.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
After a convenience store robbery goes wrong, the villains take a family hostage in their own home. Unfortunately, the family has secrets that will create a nightmare for all involved. The twist on the hostage drama started out good, but it fell apart in the end when it got completely unbelievable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyeed this book. Great plot with lots of suspense. I also appreciate the authors writing style, to the point. He doesnt spend 2 pages describing a roonnfor example.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1dachsmom More than 1 year ago
This was a fantastic read!!!  Love the character, story line, and there are many twists and turns that you never see coming.  This is a "can't put it down" book " for sure.  HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!     
DarleneGinn-Hargrove More than 1 year ago
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I could not read this book fast enough ( and I saw the movie )! What a great.suspense filled book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed it to the point I didn't want to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't stop reading. Not you same old hostage story, lots of interesting complications in the plot. It all comes together well in the end too. Great fun.
bdfcanhtho More than 1 year ago
A good original read.
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FreedomLady More than 1 year ago
This story about Jeff Talley is a page turner. He just keeps on going no matter what he is dealt. Kept me guessing on the inside man right down to the last. Robert Crais creates characters that you can reach out and touch.
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