Elmore Leonard doesn’t write mysteries, not really. The reader knows what is going on ahead of all the characters. The fun is in watching the characters learn the truth, seeing how they work it out in their heads, and then what they do with that information. The criminals are mostly dipshits. Charismatic and colorful, but still largely dipshits.
It’s been a year since the events of Pronto and this time Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens is trying to locate the recently kidnapped Harry Arno. Raylan isn’t all that invested in finding Harry but does it as a favor to Raylan’s girlfriend (and Harry’s ex) Joyce. What follows is a pretty typical caper with the aforementioned moron criminals in too deep and – while still murderous and ruthless – making so many mistakes it is hard to take them seriously. The strength of the novel is in depicting the “What comes next?” for the characters after Pronto. At the end of that novel Raylan had saved Harry’s life but also killed a man in a manner that may not have been entirely justified. That act has caused a crack to start in Raylan and Joyce’s relationship that is widening as Harry’s alcoholism is back and becoming worse. This is bringing out the need for Joyce to worry about Harry and making things worse. An unconnected beginning that sees Raylan arrest 2 dipshit would-be car jackers explains the title: everyone has to pay for their actions.
It’s pretty clear from the start that Raylan and Joyce’s time romantically is about up. Throw a beautiful psychic in to the mix and complications ensue. The hook to Riding the Rap isn’t if Raylan will save the day, we are highly confident he will. The hook is in seeing how his actions previously are informing their lives now. That is an interesting line to take and much more engaging then the actual caper which is pretty pedestrian. Admittedly a lot of the fun here is just getting to read another adventure with Raylan now that Justified (and Elmore Leonard for that matter) have come to an end. As a farewell to Raylan Givens it’s a fun ride. I’m going to miss that man with the hat.
Even if he was kind of an asshole sometimes.