Working as a bodyguard for a spoiled federal witness, Joe Pike hatches a desperate plan to disappear with the woman in the underworld of Los Angeles and turn on her would-be killers, an effort in which he enlists the help of private investigator Elvis Cole.
Joe Pike is an enigmatic character, while being a classic tarnished knight. He had an abusive childhood, is an ex-Marine, is a martial arts expert, is an ex-policeman and is a sometime mercenary. He is also very intelligent and capable of extreme gentleness and compassion. He is, on the surface, a similar character to Win in the Myron Bolitar Stories (Harlan Coben) or Bubba in the Gennaro/Kenzie stories (Dennis Lehane). He is there to move the story along, to take the actions our detective cannot/will not take - he’s the big guns brought out for extreme circumstances.
The Elvis Cole novels are known for their characterisations and the humour the author can bring to the story. he continues this in this novel. Pike is asked to bodyguard a spoiled rich girl and, as one would expect, things take a rapid turn for the worst. In this novel the plot almost takes second place to the characters and to the gradual drawing out of Joe’s backstory and that of Larkin Barkley.
Reading any Robert Crais novel is a pleasure and reading this one especially so. Joe Pike, already solid in the minds of the fans, is further fleshed out in this novel. The Daily Mirror said “Read this, then read all his others” and I have to agree. Unless you already have all the others in which case I say read them in order and stop jumping to the end.
One thing that didn’t work out as well as I thought it might was the establishment of Larkin’s character. She’s portrayed as a party girl a la Paris Hilton on the flap, but inside she is much steadier and willing to slow and adapt to the new situation. Whenever she has a flare up, it seems like a false note as a result. Strange, but I never thought of Larkin as a flighty, celebutaunt. In the end she ends up seriously falling for Pike and makes the very adult decision to leave him be when her play for him falls flat.
In one sense I’m glad that Pike and Larkin (constantly referred to as the girl) didn’t end up connecting. On one hand, Pike needs to be solitary and focused. He can’t stand the distraction that comes with domesticity. And we all know what that does – it neuters; just look at Davenport. On the other hand, Pike is empty inside and it would be nice to see part of that space filled with something that can bring him joy and fulfillment.
Elvis made a few appearances and saved Pike’s butt just as Pike usually does in Elvis’s adventures. Pike really loves and respects Elvis and his abilities. He says that Elvis is the one person who’s inside persona and outside persona are nearly identical. He doesn’t know how he does it, but he’s determined to study Elvis closer until he discovers how it’s done. It was interesting to see Elvis through Pike’s eyes.
The plot unraveled as such; terrorist guy needs to clean and raise money. He contacts real estate guy B. Real estate guy B gets funding through Berkley company C. Deal sours. Terrorist wants his money. Terrorist doesn’t get his money. Kills real estate guy B. Still wants money. Goes after Berkley not knowing that daddy has no idea of this transaction. It’s lackey D who is engineering the whole thing. Lackey D sets Larkin up as the leverage point to get the money out of daddy Berkley. At first Larkin thinks daddy is in on it, but a dangerous and stupid move during a tense situation reveals him to be ignorant. Gunplay ensues. Bad guys are killed. Good guys are wounded. Lackey D escapes. Later, Pike and a friend hunt down and kill Lackey D.
I think this could be read as a stand-alone novel in some respects – it rehashes a lot of Pike’s story surrounding his time on the force and his time with Bud Flynn. It goes into great detail of his final assignment, shooting of his partner and subsequent resignation. He and Bud surprisingly work well together despite no communication for something like 20 years.
All in all, I prefer Pike as a shadowy, mysterious guy. I prefer Cole-focused stories where Pike is the back up. He doesn’t belong in the limelight when he performs best in the dark.
RC did a great job of setting this story up, going back a few books...Cole wrapping up his personal life and getting conveniently injured to within an inch of his death - he'll need a few pike books to recover.
And I think that's what RC does best: know his audience and respond to it. Two-Minute Rule seemed like a little reward to himself - leaving the franchise for a smoke, so to speak - and now he's back in giving the people what they want.
Not sure if there's enough Pike there to sustain a series, though. His demons from the past, only hinted at in the Cole books, are now laid bare and they're pretty flimsy to build a complex character on. Pike won't be able to sustain a love interest or grow fundamentally unless he changes, and that will take away all his charm.
Pike's the perfect sidekick, and I hope he'll go back to being that in the future.
(Note: Joe Pike is very much like Lee Child's Jack Reacher--if you like Lee Child you'll love this book, and probably all of Crais's books.)
Which isn't to say that this is terrible. It may be just the ticket, if you're in the mood for a mindless, quick-paced, "shoot-'em-up, "Lethal Weapon"-ish sort of escapism, with a made-to-order Paris-Hilton-trying-to-act-like-she-has-some-substance-and-an-excuse role. But somehow I expected more from this author.
Normally, I’m not one for the hard-boiled hero type of either police procedural or thriller. I do have my exceptions, however, such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus. Both series are so well written that they transcend, it seems to me, the genre.
I now can add Robert Crais’s Joe Pike/Ellis Cole series to the list. Joe Pike is a co-partner, along with Ellis Cole, of a private investigative agency. In a way, he’s your standard no nonsense, tough guy, hard a nails protagonist: ex-marine, ex-L.A. cop, and ex-mercenary. He has the entire skill set necessary for such a protagonist: go for 36+ hours without sleep, stand in one place without moving for 12 hours, drop a fly with a bronze-tipped arrow at 600 yards—the whole shmear.
Yet somehow, in this novel where Joe has taken on the protection of a Paris Hilton type figure, he comes out far more interesting. As does Larkin Barkley, the “wild young heiress,” by the way, and I am no fan of celebrities. I put it down to the writing, which is very good, and the plotting, which is also very good. Pike has an interesting background, and Barkley has appealing intelligence. I wouldn’t make such an extravagant claim as to say there is terrific character development within a novel that is clearly thriller-type entertainment, but there is some and it adds to the appeal of the book.
All the characters, from the protagonist on down to the major baddies, have distinct voices. This is not a wooden book depending simply on body count (which is significant) and gore and atrocities (of which there is hardly any) for its appeal. It moves nicely, its characters are appealing or repellent as necessary, and the plot resolves well.
All in all, a very good read and one that left me eager to read more in the series. Highly recommended.
I wanted a replacement for Reacher and Pike nearly is. He's quiet and doesn't waste time being nice or talking when he can just act and get stuff done. I think the "relationship" between him and the woman he was protecting was just too jarring. The story wasn't long enough or deep enough to justify them having a "developing" relationship of any type, and, on top of that, the reader was lead to believe that the girl was young-ish, and Pike is middle aged, so it was creepy on that note.
All in all, not a bad book, and I'd read more in this series if someone dropped off a copy at my door.
In this story, we learn much about Cole's background including his abusive father, and his first years as a police officer and why he left the force to become a military contractor. Cole also falls in love.
Carl Alves - author of Two For Eternity
The Watchman is the first book in the Joe Pike series and it is fast-paced, edge of your seat entertainment. Robert Crais does not clutter up his novel with extraneous information – instead his writing is direct, plot-driven and high action.
I first was introduced to Crais’s writing in his newest novel, Suspect, which I loved. I went right out and bought the first three books of the Pike series and finally decided to read it.
Joe Pike is a thrilling character with a dark background. He reminds me of the protagonists which people Robert Ludlum novels – strong, fearless, and with extraordinary capabilities. But don’t let that fool you – beneath his cool interior, Pike has a heart and it is that touch of humanity which makes him not only a character to get behind, but one to love.
I’m eager to read the next book in this series.
Readers who love plot-driven novels with lots of action, won’t want to miss this one.
Larkin is a spoiled rich girl who gets in a car crash and apparently has witnessed something due to this crash so that someone wants her dead. Joe Pike is brought in to protect her and keep her alive.
The car crash itself was a bit confusing at the start. It happened fast and I had trouble figuring out who was who right off! (And I still had trouble sorting out some of the characters later on, as well!) However, once I figured out the gist (even if I didn’t have the characters straight) of what was happening, some parts were fast-paced, while others weren’t as interesting. I really didn’t like either of the main characters, though, Larkin or Pike (mostly he’s called by his last name). I don’t plan to seek out any more books with Pike in them; I won’t necessarily rule them out altogether, but I won’t go looking for any.
Larkin is a very frightened rich girl who doesn't trust Joe and expects to be pampered and entertained. Joe is not even willing to engage in conversation, let alone entertain, and a bored and resentful Larkin does her best to undermine the restrictions Joe established for her safety. Add the fact that the government's theory of the identity and motivation of the person directing the assassination attempts is flawed and Joe's is in for a rough time.
With Elvis providing investigative service and Joe handling the paramilitary action, Pike and Cole attempt to protect Larkin and find out who wants her dead. And - spoiler alert - for once they manage to pull off the job without either of them getting shot.
Although not Crais' best effort, The Watchman is entertaining from start to finish. In contrast to some of the other entries in this series, the motivation and identity of the person orchestrating the assassination attempts remains a mystery until close to the end. This keeps the reader in the dark as well as Pike and Cole.
Crais' plotting is good but like most writers he seems unwilling to take on the challenge of a committed relationship for his central characters. Pike's personality is fleshed out in greater detail but he still remains an enigma. For example, why won't he talk? Here's hoping we see further development of the Joe Pike character.
As always, Crais' careful descriptions of person, place, and mood bring the story to life and his use of simile and metaphor is superb. They are the reason Crais is one of my favorite authors.