Robert Crais has been writing excellent crime novels for twenty years now. Most of them have featured Elvis Cole and his sidekick, Joe Pike, a former cop, former marine and former mercenary who plays the really hard guy who often as not gets Elvis out of trouble and generally watches his back. But this book concentrates on Joe, and its Elvis who is the support player.
This story has Joe Pike returning a favour by taking on bodyguard duties for Larkin Barkley, a Paris Hilton-style heiress rich girl, who saw too much at a car accident and is now targeted, by someone. The action is about how Joe, with help from Elvis and others, decides to take the action to the pursuers, to find out who they are and why they are targeting Larkin. Needless to say there are plenty of plot twists, lots of shootings and bodies, and justice is done in the end without much recourse to the legal system. Also, the inevitable happens and Joe falls for the girl – well that was so predictable that it doesn’t really reveal anything you couldn’t have guessed up front.
The narrative is interspersed with flashbacks to Joe Pike’s past as a boy growing up in a violent household, as a rookie cop (origin of the favour he’s returning in this book), as a Marine and as a mercenary – all of them violent. But Joe is not really mean, he has a code and he sticks to it. What I get out of this is that this book is intended as an explanation of Joe Pike and the kind of character that he is – the plot is simply the backdrop for Joe’s story. This means that the balance between biography and crime is tilting towards the former, possibly to the detriment of the book, but at least you’ll have a better awareness of what makes Joe tick when he appears in future Robert Crais novels.
As always, the writing is crisp, and we can accept the combination of forensics, street awareness, deduction and human understanding that keep driving the story forwards. The characteristic humour is there – not necessarily through Pike, who seems a bit bereft in that direction, but Elvis contributes his bit, as does criminalist John Chen.
The Watchman by Robert Crais, published by Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster), (2007), ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-6169-9, ISBN-10: 1-4165-6169-2
Other books by Robert Crais:
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike – The Monkey’s Raincoat (1987), Stalking the Angel (1989), Lullaby Town (1992), Free Fall (1993), Voodoo River (1995), Sunset Express (1996), Indigo Slam (1997), L.A. Requiem (1999), The Last Detective (2003), The Forgotten Man (2005)
Other – Demolition Angel (2000), Hostage (2001), The Two-Minute Rule (2006)