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The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novelby Robert Crais
Synopses & Reviews
The city was hers for a single hour, just the one magic hour, only hers.
Larkin Conner Barkley lives like the City of Angels is hers for the taking. Young and staggeringly rich, she speeds through the city during its loneliest hours, blowing through red after red in her Aston Martin as if running for her life. Until out of nowhere a car appears, and with it the metal-on-metal explosion of a terrible accident. Dazed, Larkin attempts to help the other victims. And finds herself the sole witness in a secret federal investigation.
For maybe the first time in her life, Larkin wants to do the right thing. But by agreeing to cooperate with the authorities, she becomes the target for a relentless team of killers. And when the U.S. Marshals and the finest security money can buy can't protect her, Larkin's wealthy family turns to the one man money can't buy — Joe Pike.
Pike lives a world away from the palaces of Beverly Hills. He's an ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary who owes a bad man a favor, and that favor is to keep Larkin alive. The one upside of the job is reuniting with Bud Flynn, Pike's LAPD training officer, and a man Pike reveres as a father. The downside is Larkin Barkley, who is the uncontrollable cover girl for self-destruction — and as deeply alone as Pike.
Pike commits himself to protecting the girl, but when they immediately come under fire, he realizes someone is selling them out. In defiance of Bud and the authorities, Pike drops off the grid with the girl and follows his own rules of survival: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters. With the help of private investigator Elvis Cole, Pike uncovers a web of lies and betrayals, and the stunning revelation thateven the cops are not who they seem. As the body count rises, Pike's biggest threat might come from the girl herself, a lost soul in the City of Angels, determined to destroy herself unless Joe Pike can teach her the value of life...and love.
"As the subtitle suggests, Joe Pike, the intriguing, enigmatic partner of L.A. PI Elvis Cole, takes center stage in this intense thriller from bestseller Crais (The Two Minute Rule). To pay back an old debt, Pike is coerced into protecting Larkin Barkley, a hard-partying young heiress whose life is in danger after a 'wrong place wrong time' encounter that quickly escalates and spins out of control. The enemy is shadowy, violent and relentless—but the fierce, focused Pike, one of the strongest characters in modern crime fiction, is equal to the challenge. The breathless pace and rich styling are sure to appeal to readers of hard-boiled fiction in general, but since up to now Pike has mostly remained in the background, some fans of the Elvis Cole series (The Forgotten Man, etc.) may find the explicit picture that emerges of Pike at odds with the image they've constructed for themselves." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"As the subtitle suggests, Joe Pike, the intriguing, enigmatic partner of L.A. PI Elvis Cole, takes center stage in this intense thriller from bestseller Crais (The Two Minute Rule). To pay back an old debt, Pike is coerced into protecting Larkin Barkley, a hard-partying young heiress whose life is in danger after a 'wrong place wrong time' encounter that quickly escalates and spins out of control. The enemy is shadowy, violent and relentless — but the fierce, focused Pike, one of the strongest characters in modern crime fiction, is equal to the challenge. The breathless pace and rich styling are sure to appeal to readers of hard-boiled fiction in general, but since up to now Pike has mostly remained in the background, some fans of the Elvis Cole series (The Forgotten Man, etc.) may find the explicit picture that emerges of Pike at odds with the image they've constructed for themselves." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Twenty years ago, after a successful career writing for television, Robert Crais published his first novel about the Los Angeles investigator Elvis Cole. Since then the Cole novels, notable for the precision and intensity of Crais' writing, have won more than their share of prizes and started turning up on best-seller lists. One of their strengths has been Cole's formidable sidekick, Joe Pike. Cole... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) is plenty tough, but he's a jovial fellow who finds time to woo the ladies and toss off wisecracks. By contrast, Pike, ex-Marine and ex-L.A. cop, is a man of few words and lethal actions. Cole calls him a samurai. Now, in 'The Watchman,' the sidekick becomes the star. In a lyrical opening scene, a rich, spoiled, sexy girl of 22 named Larkin Barkley is speeding along the deserted streets of Hollywood in her Aston Martin at 3 in the morning. 'Light poles flicked past; red or green, it didn't matter and she didn't care. Honking horns were lost in the rush. Her long hair, the color of pennies, whipped and lashed.' Her joy ride ends when she clips a Mercedes. Seeing that the people in it are injured, Larkin offers to call 911. Within days, gunmen are trying to kill her, because one of the men in the Mercedes was a mobster who now wants her dead. After FBI protection fails, perhaps because of leaks within its organization, Pike is called upon. The rest of the novel involves small armies of gunmen trying to find and kill Larkin, with Pike, backed by Elvis Cole, trying to fight them off and kill their boss. Along the way, we learn more about Pike's background than the earlier novels revealed. When Joe was a child, his father brutally beat him and his mother until the boy was big enough to fight back. We see Pike as a young LAPD officer who began his career by killing a man who was about to stab his partner. Later he quit the force when loyalty to a friend demanded it: 'He had loved that badge and everything it represented, but he had loved Wozniak's family more. Families needed to be protected.' Larkin resents Pike's no-nonsense manner and alternately insults and flirts with him, but Pike cares only about his duty to keep her alive. At one point, when he finds a lead to the gangster he thinks is behind the attacks, we have a moment of pure Joe Pike: 'If Pike could ever know bliss, it filled him now, but he showed nothing. He had them. ... All these bastards trying to kill this girl, this one girl, all of them ganged against her, and he would clear the field, but not for justice. It would be punishment. Punishment was justice.' That's Pike: tough, pure, relentless and unforgiving. The FBI, the police, even the girl's craven billionaire father can't be trusted; only Pike, the warrior, truly cares for her. This is Crais' 11th Cole-Pike book, and he's also written three stand-alones. They're all engrossing reads; he's a stylish writer, and no one choreographs violence with more skill. Still, I don't think this is one of his better efforts; 'The Last Detective,' four years ago, offered much the same plot but handled it better. One problem is Joe Chen, a foolish LAPD officer who variously worships and fears Pike. Chen is apparently intended as comic relief, but he's a mistake; when Pike is on top of his game, we don't want comedy or relief. Pike's relationship with Larkin is also problematic. It's to be expected she will fall for this strong, silent samurai who's risking his life for her, and Crais makes the most of will-they-or-won't-they tension. Without giving that one away, I'll say only that her transition from spoiled rich girl to 'one damn fine young woman' is too pat. Beyond that, it's way too touchy-feely when Pike shares thoughts like these about her tormentors: 'He wanted to punish them badly enough that he would become his father to do it, and they would be him.' I'm not sure we needed to know that Pike's father beat him. Is that motivation or a cliche? You can be a righteous dude who wants to kill evil men without having been an abused child. I liked Pike better in his original role of sidekick, lethal and silent, with an aura of mystery about him. Less is more. Giving him a novel of his own was a worthy experiment, but Crais has done better in the past and almost certainly will in the future." Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle, who is mysteries editor of The Washington Post Book WorldPatrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"This book moves like an arrow fired from a compound bow.....[Crais] has distilled the crime novel into an efficient delivery system. He knows we're addicted and minds it not a bit." Los Angeles Times
"The twists and turns in this first-rate thriller are many and fast, and the tension never slackens." Library Journal
The bestselling author of The Two Minute Rule returns with his most popular characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike — and this time, the darkly compelling Joe gets to take the driver's seat. The result is Crais' most blistering thriller to date.
About the Author
Robert Crais is the 2006 recipient of the Ross Macdonald Literary Award. He is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers, including The Two Minute Rule, The Forgotten Man, and L.A. Requiem.
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