Friday, April 13, 2007

L.A. Requiem

Robert Crais fell off my Hardback List. That's the list of authors whose books I buy as soon as they come out. The list grows shorter every year. I started reading Crais all the way back in 1987 with his first book, The Monkey's Raincoat. Raincoat was a fairly straightforward private eye novel. I liked it enough to pick up Crais's next half dozen or so books in hardback, but then the next couple disappointed me and the last one I bought in hardback, the aptly titled, The last Detective, I didn't even finish. I checked out the following two books from the library and didn't make it through those either. Basically I figured Crais and me were done.
But...a month or two back I learned that his newest novel would feature Joe Pike. Pike, is to Crais's primary series hero Elvis Cole, what Hawk is to Spenser and what Max the Silent is to Andrew Vachss' Burke. He is the sidekick who will do what the hero won't. He'll kill with no apologies and never look back. Throughout the long running Elvis Cole series, Pike has been the back up man to end all back up men.
Pike's a mercenary. A man so bad that he has red arrows tattooed on his shoulders pointing forward to remind him to never back down and never back off. Pike is a dangerous man.
When I read that Crais was going to write an entire novel featuring Pike as the primary hero, I wondered if he could pull it off. Part of what made Pike work as a character was his mysterious nature. You were never seeing Pike from the inside, but rather as others saw him. I thought that perhaps using him as viewpoint character would strip away his mystique. I was curious, so I finally broke down and bought the book in hardback today.
I'm here to tell you, Crais pulled it off. The Watchman kicks ass and takes names. I read the book in two sittings, pausing only to cook and eat dinner. The suspense starts on page one and holds right until the end. I wonder if an editor told Crais he needed to get back to his roots or if maybe just using Pike as protagonist gave Crais a second wind. Whatever the reason, I'm really glad I bought The Watchman. Joe Pike rules.

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