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Over the course of several novels, Robert Crais has firmly established the character of Elvis Cole, The World's Best Detective, along with his side-kick, Joe Pike, so, after all these years, the author has decided it is finally time to mix things up a bit. Hence The Watchman is something of a depature from his usual fare in that it focuses, for the most part, solely around the character of Pike!
A short while ago, Cole found himself racing against time to locate the kidnapped son of his then current girlfriend and Pike was forced to make a promise to do one last job for a shadowy figure from his past in order to help his partner. That promise has lingered over Pike for quite some time and now has come the time to collect....
Larkin Conner Barkely, the daughter of a successful businessman, was involved in a car accident that has turned into a Federal Investigation with her as the main witness. Pike is called in to help keep her alive after a succession of attempts on her life but quickly determines there is a leak somewhere when two safe houses he sets up are compromised! Leaving the Federal Agencies behind, Pike sets off on his own with Larkin in his custody, determined to equally discover both who is behind the attacks and to stop them! Enlisting the aid of his friend and colleague, Elvis Cole, along the way, the pair soon find themselves caught up in conspiracy and intrigue involving Homeland Security and money laundering!
Starting off in the heat of the action and then working back slightly to give us a bit of an insight into the man behind the cold external character of Pike, this book is the equivalent of John Connolly's The Reapers in that it reveals elements of Pike's past previously only hinted at. This is both a good and a bad thing as one of Pike's appeals until now was always that he was such a man of mystery. Still, it is good to discover that there are deeper levels to this character than just another cold-blooded killer and that Pike has moral guidance even if it is a bit skewed from everyone elses!
I really enjoyed this book, maybe not as much as your normal Elvis Cole novel but still enjoyed it and would reccommend it to fans of the series. I would not say it is the best book to pick up if this is your first experience of Robert Crais, but it is certainly a gripping and action-packed read that is not too taxing and that I finished inn a couple of days.
I look forward to the next Crais novel with baited breath and can't wait to see what he has in store for these characters next!
The sidekick is an important role in fiction. What would Sherlock Holmes have been without Dr Watson? A sidekick is used as much as a reflection on the hero as a character themselves. This means that they are often contrary to the main protagonist. If your hero is a moral compass, then the sidekick may have a dark edge. If your hero is a dope taking genius, then his partner may be a straight laced everyman. The companion is a very useful tool for any author, especially in crime fiction, as it allows them to take the book in a direction that perhaps the hero would not do. A good example of this in recent crime fiction is Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike. Cole is a witty PI who tries to do his best, but he needs Pike's physical strength and ruthless streak on many occasions. What happens though when the tables turn? Suddenly the sidekick becomes the meal and the hero the side salad. Can that possibly work?
The book opens suddenly with a gun battle between Pike and a group of men. Pike is seemingly protecting a woman from these men and he is having to use deadly force to do so. Not a man to get mixed up in other people's problems, Pike is being forced to return a favour to a dangerous man he owes. Larkin is a spoilt rich girl who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessed the whereabouts of a known criminal and terrorist. Now the villain is after her and wants her dead before she can go to court. With the police and FBI leaking like a sieve Pike has to go underground with the girl and off the grid. However, Pike is not a man who runs, with the aid of his friend Elvis Cole, his plan is to take the action to the bad guy, rather than waiting to be killed.
This is a book that opens at a pace and does not stop. I am a huge fan of Robert Crais and especially his Elvis Cole books. The Cole series has a wonderful balance of great storytelling, witty banter and exhilarating action. This action is normally pretty dark and sometimes violent. The perpetrator of this punishment is as often Pike as it is the enemy. The laughs are provided by 'The World's Best Detective' Elvis Cole, his breezy nature hides a strong detective who will do anything to get to the truth. Without Cole's light asides can Crais still strike the right balance?
'The Watchman' does strike a good balance, but it is one that is different from other books in the series. With the main protagonist now being Pike the light has been removed, but the action is upped. Pike is a man of action and he goes to the problem rather than sitting back. The entire book is one fast investigation as Pike moves closer to a solution and does not mind killing on the way. As well as action we do get to know a little bit more about the man behind the shades. I was worried that Crais would expose Pike fully, but luckily we do delve deeper, but he is still an enigma. We learn about his past in a couple of flash back segments and they reveal a little about him, but not too much. The issue I had with these segments was not the content, but the fact they were italic. If you have ten pages in a book all written in italics its starts to annoy quickly.
Crais has treated the character of Pike well in terms of his past. It is the present that is more of an issue. The book has a slightly ill judged chemistry between the young spoilt girl and the aging ex-marine. For a man who has spent his life keeping his emotions on an even keel, it felt slightly false that he would fall apparently head over heels so easily.
The lack of humour in 'The Watchman' is replaced well with some of the best action sequences that Crais has written. Cole has enough of a role in the book to appease the fans, but this is essentially Pike's novel. The brief glimpses into his past as a police officer, frightened child and mercenary, are a useful insight into why Pike is the cold man he is. The book does have its flaws with the unconvincing love affair being the biggest, but none of them can overshadow the fact that this is a fun action romp that starts of at a frantic pace and never lets up until it's over.
Author: Robert Crais
Price: amazon uk - £4.27
play.com - £2.49
Having recently read my first novel by Robert Crais I felt it was time to take a trip down to my local book lending emporium and browse their shelves. I left the place with an armful of books but only one Crais - sadly.
'The Watchman' is the tale of Larkin(?) Conner Barkley who during a mindless act of speeding rear-ends another car. As she exits her vehicle to check on the occupants of the other car she witnesses one passenger running from the scene of the accident. A few days later she is suddenly running for her life.
Joe Pike, ex-marine/ex-cop/ex-humour, is recruited to protect the girl and, along with the aid of his friend, Elvis Cole, he sets about turning the tables on the hitmen and going after those who are ordering her kill. Amongst all this mayhem he encounters a web of deceit where it appears everyone is not who they seem.
When I began reading this book I was immediately thrown off balance by the first few chapters as it feels as though you have jumped into a novel part way through - the action comes thick and fast and the back-story is only touched upon in the simplest of terms. However, I stuck with it armed with the knowledge that his previous book 'Demolition Angel' had been a good read and was eventually rewarded.
A few chapters in and suddenly you begin to understand the characters and their involvement with each other. Even the dark and moody Joe Pike, who at first I thought a very unlikeable man with little to say and coming across as a modern-day He-Man, has a depth that, although only touched upon slightly in the book, casts a long and inevitable shadow on his current life.
The light relief though comes in the shape of Elvis Cole, Pike's long time friend, who has the quips to blunt the edge of his pal's tough exterior. He is a private detective and on the request of Pike joins him in his search for the truth regarding the sudden interest in Larkin Barkley.
The novel is really well written and had me hooked well into the early hours once I had gotten over the initial first few chapters and comes across more of a crime story than a straight thriller. The story occasionally jumps perspectives as it attempts to deliver the tale from a different characters view-point but does this extremely well focusing on that particular characters opinions, weaknesses etc.
Even though this book is part of a long-running series of stories featuring the two friends I never felt like I was missing out on any earlier event in their relationship and can be easily read as a stand-alone book.
'The Watchman' is Robert Crais's 14th book and I must say is an excellent read especially if you like the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. Both heroes have that no-nonsense, grab-them-by-the-balls attitude, speak little and act often. The main difference though, and I can only surmise this, is that Joe Pike appears to have a deeper background. The mans intriguing past and this fast-paced novel definately mean I shall be back at the library demanding they increase their Robert Crais collection with haste.
One of these days though I'm going to have to try and get to bed before three in the morning but with all these good books I've been reading and are waiting to be read ...... who knows?
Six months after nearly losing everything to the men who kidnapped his girlfriend's ten-year-old son, Elvis Cole is slowly coming back to life - when he receives an ominous phone call from the LAPD. An unidentified body has been found in a seedy Los Angeles alley. The only clue the cops have is a packet of newspaper articles about the past exploits of Elvis Cole - and the fact that before the man died, he said he was Elvis's father ...Joe Pike is the only person who can help Elvis navigate the minefield of his past. As they investigate, Elvis is haunted by the fact that, at last, he might have found his father. But with each clue they uncover, a troubling picture emerges about the dead man. And as Elvis and Joe approach his true identity, they unwittingly walk straight into a hornet's nest.