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82 of 87 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 10, 2007
In Joe Pike, "the world's greatest detective's" enigmatic and stoically violent sidekick of the "Elvis Cole" novels, the talented Robert Crais has created one of most intriguing characters in contemporary popular fiction. But with the wisecracking Cole still mostly sidelined from injuries suffered in "The Forgotten Man", Pike takes center stage in this well plotted, fast moving crime drama.

With his red-arrowed deltoids "going forward, never back", Pike, to repay an old debt, reluctantly takes on the task of protecting Larkin Barkley, a spoiled LA society brat drawn with shades of Paris Hilton, right down to the rat-dog-in-the-purse detail. Returning home from late night revelry, Barkley t-bones a Mercedes full of the wrong people, and in a convoluted twist, ends up as a witness under protection. But when it becomes clear that the folks who'd prefer that Barkley not testify are deadly serious, Joe Pike gets the job of keeping the pouting debutant safe and sound.

As always, Crais' prose is witty and fast moving. Joe Pike, who is about as chatty as Mount Rushmore, is cleverly contrasted against Larkin's tantrums. And Elvis Cole, while taking care not to swing the spotlight too far away from Pike's solo debut, throws around enough of his patented one-liners to keep his hardcore base smiling. But if the bond that builds gradually between Joe and Barkley stretches the bounds of credibility just a bit, this is, after all, fiction, and besides, Crais does a masterful job of building the sexual tension and creating - perish the thought - the hint of a soft side to Pike's impenetrable persona.

While perhaps lacking the edge and grit of today's "garage writers of grime" - guys like Charlie Huston, Duane Swierczynski, Charlie Stella, or Victor Gischler - Crais' polished pages capture LA's sleaze and majesty, designed for appeal to broad audiences. All in all, a slick and well-rendered effort from one of today's best writers of mainstream fiction - top entertainment that is well worth the time and the 15-buck hardcover.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2007
Around page 100, I would have rated this just 3-4 stars. It ends up as a firm 5 by the end. There seem to me to be two distinct strands in thriller writing -- character builders and plot artists. Crais is more of a plotter than a character guy; I never quite get inside his two heroes, Pike and Cole -- they seem just a little artificial. But he is superb in plotting. What begins as a routine story line weaves, turns, double backs and grabs you to the last pages. He is a good stylist -- deft, brief and precise. He is also superb in his portrayals of violence and cruelty; you get a sense here of Pike's dissociation and his own detachment. The heroine -- Paris Hilton but without the intellect -- does not come alive for me; again, too artificial. The villains are shadows not realities. But, this is a minor point. The book works superbly. I loved it.
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89 of 109 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 27, 2007
Joe Pike is the epitome of crime tough guys. Nobody does it better. He was a special forces soldier before he became an LAPD cop. He took the fall on charges that shouldn't have been dropped on him and was busted out of the LAPD. He became a mercenary and a some-time private eye that paired up with the World's Greatest Detective, Elvis Cole.

He has red arrows pointing forward tattooed on his deltoids because Joe Pike does not back up.

This is the guy I've been waiting years to read about. Author Robert Crais introduced one of the funniest and emotionally complex private detectives to come along in years in Elvis Cole, but he also crafted one of the hardest heroes to see print in decades. Joe Pike is the king of cool, the master of the understatement, and a man haunted by personal demons he'll never talk about.

Hired by a friend of a friend, Joe agrees to bodyguard Larkin Barkley, a young woman who's the daughter of a multi-millionaire businessman. Larkin has a self-destructive tendency that only Joe seems to understand. Unfortunately, some of the same things she's in denial about are the same things that plague Joe. As the two fight to stay alive, and fight with each other, they come to realize that the only way they're going to get through the situation alive is to rely on and trust each other. Both of them have issues with that.

Larkin is a witness in a brutal slaying. The murderer is believed to be a brutal head of a drug cartel who will stop at nothing to kill Larkin.

The book starts off with a bang, with bullets ripping through the air and Pike's truck from the first pages to the close of the book. The novel grabs the reader by the throat and literally demands the reader's full attention. The assault on the reader's senses is relentless.

Crais is an elaborate plotter, but it all makes sense when he shakes out the final twist. But the best thing of all is getting to ride shotgun with Joe Pike while he deals with enemy guns and the hostile past he has that keeps getting in the way while he's protecting Larkin.

The dialogue, the descriptions, and the pacing are so well choreographed that you can see the movie spinning in your head. I liked the cameos that Elvis Cole had in this novel, but I'm glad Joe got to keep center stage. I really didn't think the novel would work that well because sometimes if a writer shines a light too brightly on an enigmatic hero that everything that existed is turned into a cheap trick.

But Joe Pike is for real. He's an unstoppable force and an avenging angel all rolled into one. The publishers mention that this is a JOE PIKE NOVEL right on the cover. Hopefully there will be future installments. If so, they'd be most welcome.
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55 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2007
There are a lot of reviews of this book already posted and they are almost universal in their praise for this book. I was certainly looking forward to it as I have felt that Crais has been getting better with every book and to have a story which features the enigmatic Joe Pike looked to be very interesting.

My feeling about the book are best explained by recaling the comic strip Peanuts and the time when Snoopy was going to return to The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for a reunion with all of the puppies he knew when he was little. He went dancing off to the reunion and several days later he returned, threw his pack into the dog house and went to lie on the ridgepole. Charlie Brown comes running up and says "Well? How was it?"

In the bubble over Snoopy's head he replies, "The anticipation far exceeded the actual event."

And that's how I feel about The Watchman. I now know more about Joe Pike's background than I really need to and he continues to be a stalwart person and a loyal one. The story which has been outlined by others I found to be a bit tedious. Having said that, I realize that this is a very minority opinion and if you are a Robert Crais fan, I would not let my reaction to this book put you off from reading it. Maybe I am just having a bad reading week.

However, I always try to tell it like I see it. In this instance, though I think you should rely more on what others have had to say.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2007
This was the first Elvis Cole "series" I have read and I am hooked. Now starting with Monkey's Raincoat, I look forward to reading all the Cole novels. There seem to be a number of anti-hero sidekicks to todays PI's. Spenser has Hawk, Patrick Kenzie has Bubby for example.

The character Joe Pike most reminds me of is a spitting image of Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Brutal, quiet loners. But for some reason, Pike seems a bit more human, a bit more flawed. I hope Crais writes using him as the lead in future books. If you like hard action novels- this is the book for you. I was excited to find a new series to read. Now if only Dennis Lehane can release a new Kenzie/Gennaro novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2007
Any reader of Crais' Elvis Cole series will notice the split plot techneque he uses . The Cole/Pike sidekick scheme also is a favorite device. It's a sort of meanwhile back at the condo system which is a tension builder, keeping his readers turning pages. But it is something more in this novel. This is a bit more than the usual "Los Angeles sleeze" novel. The Watchman, is of course the watchman on the walls of the city, the soldier looking out for all of us. Like a number of characters we are queasy about some of his actions - the final chapters play on this- but we know we need him and he does us a service. This was the grat moral question after WWII and there is some great art dealing with it Ford's version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance comes to mind. It is out of this tradition that the glamorizing of the cold warrior also appeared- James Bond.

But there are few James Bonds in today's action novels. It is too hard to integrate the smooth casino dweller and the physical dare all character which was the sixties hero. Here Crais solves the problem. Cole for smoothness, Pike for fearless, risk all devotion to the good guys. And in the middle of this, an idealized, but unconsummated, love affair with a California realestate heiress who drives her Aston Martin (Remember who else favors these) in the early morning hours from club to home and encounters a terrorist money laundry event. With Pike enlisted to defend her, bodies accumulate like the last act of Hamlet. Action, Action and surprisingly a couple of final, after the action, action chapters. Are we glad to have that watchman on the wall? Can we as we were climactily told in a well known film "stand the truth?"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2007
This is my first Robert Crais book and I have to say - it was excellent. The writing was top-notch, the story appropriately suspenseful, a real page turner. What I liked the most, however, what set it apart from most other mystery writers (Harlan Coben, Greg Iles excepted), is his development of characters and relationships. From the beginning, this story was not just about the thrills and chills, but also about a damaged man, excellent at his craft as a mercenary who is hired to "watch" an L.A. rich kid, to keep her from getting killed. The relationship that develops between Joe Pike and Larkin Barkley is fascinating as their lives intersect and intertwine until the conclusion, which was as it should be considering these characters. The supporting characters were well written. Even though it was the first book I've read by this author, my research shows he has written a series of books featuring Elvis Cole, one of the supporting characters, I felt as though I had a handle on this character's personality. I liked it enough that I am going to read more of his books. We'll see if I like him enough to put him in my "favorite authors" category. Nevertheless, The Watchman is an excellent book - I highly recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 24, 2007
This is Joe Pike's book, and like its hero, it is light on its feet, fast, deadly and always moving forward. Joe, Elvis Cole's stoic and somewhat mysterious partner, answers a favor from his old LAPD mentor to protect a tabloid heiress in mortal danger due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In no time at all they are on the run from a seemingly endless supply of gunmen and the obvious betrayal of someone on the inside.

Within this action-packed plot, Crais finds time to explore the relationship that develops between two damaged people, and how they allow their carefully constructed defenses to slip enough to recognize the kindred spirits beneath, both the enigmatic warrior on the one hand, and the wild-child celebrity on the other. This revelation of character is developed patiently and subtly within the context of a page-turner thriller and Crais continues the use of shifting perspectives begun in LA Requiem to good advantage.

Elvis, still recovering from the shotgun wounds of his last outing, is present in a welcome supporting role here, giving a needed lift with his trademark wise-cracks.

All in all, Crais fans should love this one. A nifty addition to the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, very nicely done.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2007
Robert Crais' The Watchman is a very inventive change from his novel focus on Elvis Cole to a stunningly intense focus on Joe Pike, Elvis Cole's side-kick and chief muscle. By developing a book in which Pike has to protect a young woman who is wanted by a relentless team of criminal killers, the book moves you straight into a world of non-stop violence, steady commitment to survival by doing whatever it takes and the virtues of a highly trained, very skilled person doing what he does best against bad people trying to do the worst they can. If you want an evening of forgetting everything else and going along for the ride, The Watchman is a remarkable book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Dang it! I swore--double-dog-swore--that I'd read this one slowly, but I just. . .couldn't. . .do. . .it.

I've always liked Mr. Crais's writing, but this book ranks with my favorites.

Elvis Cole continues to be one of the protagonists I really want to get to know even better. I enjoy his humor, his humanity, his strong sense of loyalty to those whom he loves--all of that. Elvis Cole is simply a superbly-drawn character, an evocative (and provocative) one. I wait with great eagerness for each new "chapter" in his story much as I wait for the most interesting human beings I know in real life to tell me or show me more about themselves.

This novel, however, as you likely already know, is a Joe Pike novel. Yep, it says that right there on the front cover. Says it right above this review somewhere, yes? Joe Pike has always drawn me as well, the way that someone truly enigmatic draws you. I could count on a couple of fingers the facts I had about Joe Pike before reading this novel. That was okay; I like enigmatic characters. All that mystery, all the stuff you have to fill in with your own imagination--I don't mind that at all.

But it was wonderful, truly wonderful, to finally get some extended insight into what moves the man, what has shaped him, and into what drives him. From previous novels in this series, you likely would already know that he, too, has a strong sense of loyalty, that he was in the military, was a cop, loves Elvis like a brother. Yes, you'd know all that. (Okay, I guess that would take up more than two fingers. I was exaggerating for effect up there.)

But what this book does is flesh out the character without totally revealing who he is. It would have been easy to fully craft him, to give so much information that the mystery of who he is today would cease to be much of a mystery at all. It would be easy to make him one huge cliché.

What happens in this book is that the reader gets enough info to begin to understand Pike, to see him as more than Elvis Cole's sidekick, to begin to comprehend why he makes the choices he makes and what loving someone means to him. We find out about a strong and loving relationship he had with his training officer. We discover more about the kind of man he is as we learn about his concept of family and what family requires from him. We find out in more depth what he thinks of Elvis, and we see Pike defining what love is to him for us to understand.

I was utterly enthralled throughout the whole book. I didn't come across one single chapter that made me want to skip around (I typically don't encounter those in Mr. Crais' writing, anyway) or read quickly to get to juicier stuff. The plot moved at a great pace; the blend of emotional "action" and physical action was perfect. There was enough Elvis Cole in the novel to satisfy my craving for his humor and personality. The other characters were equally well-drawn and didn't fall neatly into stereotypical categories. I love being surprised when a writer remembers that well-rounded characters are infinitely more interesting than the "bad guy"/"good guy" stereotypes. You'd think more writers get that, but really--lots of them don't.

Overall, I am greatly saddened that I was unable to keep my promise to read slowly. I tried; really, I did. But I should have known better. I've always struggled to make Mr. Crais's books last.

There's only one solution.

Mr. Crais--write longer books!!!!!
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