The extraordinary new crime novel from the New York Times bestselling author.
Joe Pike is in love. Bad idea for Pike, and maybe not so great for fans of Robert Crais' series of crime novels featuring wisecracking private detective Elvis Cole and Pike, his formerly strong, silent partner.
For seven books, Pike hid behind sunglasses he never took off. He usually wore a sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off to show tattoos of red arrows (pointing forward, of course) on his biceps. He owned a gun shop and drove a Jeep he kept spotlessly clean and always had Cole's back in a jam. The most emotion he showed was when the corner of his mouth twitched after Cole said something particularly funny.
Cole is a winning character, Pike is a great sidekick, and Crais had a winning formula going until he expanded it and became a better writer. "L.A. Requiem" (1999) was a bigger, deeper book that revealed some of Pike's backstory and cut down Cole's quips in favor of a more nuanced worldview. Readers and reviewers loved it, and Crais responded by going outside the series for some stand-alone thrillers ("Demolition Angel," "Hostage") that increased his sales and sharpened his chops without hurting his credibility. He wrote two more books with Cole as the lead character before making Pike the focus of "The Watchman" and last year's "The First Rule."
"The Watchman" was a winner, but Pike doesn't seem all that comfortable at center stage. He has to do things he doesn't like to do (talk, emote) before he can do what he really wants to do (fight, disappear). He's loyal to his friends, especially Cole, and his lonely side is coming out over the last few books. It's making him behave oddly and get involved with people he'd never bother with in the past, like the seemingly innocent man and his niece whose sandwich shop gets attacked by Mexican gangbangers in Venice, Calif., at the start of "The Sentry."
Pike makes quick work of the gangsters, of course, and sparks fly with Dru Rayne, the hot young niece from New Orleans. They go on a friendly little date and all sorts of trouble results. Dru Rayne and her uncle aren't what they seem, the FBI and the Mexican mafia and a scary hit man sent by some South American drug lords are all in the mix, with Pike in the middle and Cole watching out for him for a change.
Crais is an excellent plotter who never lets his story get away from him, but there's lots of talk and no real tension in "The Sentry." As Cole and Pike move toward a shootout with the bad guys, a too-familiar finale in this series, there's never a satisfactory answer to a simple question: Why would Pike get involved in this case? For love? Really, Joe?
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