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The Sentry (Joe Pike Novels) Hardcover – January 11, 2011
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T. Jefferson Parker is one of only three writers to be awarded the Edgar Award for Best Novel more than once and the bestselling author of numerous novels, including Iron River. Parker lives with his family in Southern California.
Read on to see T. Jefferson Parker's questions for Robert Crais, or turn the tables to see what Crais asked Parker.Parker: You’ve got a new novel coming out in January of 2011. I haven’t read it yet, so can you tell me a bit about it?
Crais: It's a Joe Pike novel. Wasn't supposed to be, so I was taken by surprise, but that's the way Pike is. I planned to follow my last book, The First Rule, with an Elvis Cole novel, but I saw Pike meet a woman in Venice, California, a few moments after Pike saved her uncle from a robbery. Ideas for books come to me that way--I'll see an image. The way Pike looked at her, I knew right away I had to follow their story. So it's a love story, but not your usual love story--it's a Joe Pike love story. As the Kirkus review said, "Prepare the body bags."
Parker: Did you have any surprises as you wrote the book?
Crais: A character named Daniel. Daniel is a hit man who is after the woman Pike is falling for. He is not your typical hit man. Daniel is very strange dude, and the creepiest character I've ever created. When I wrote his first scene, I sat back, and said, whoa, where did this guy come from?
Parker: You write terrific heroes and terrific villains. How do you get inside their heads, learn their methods and tricks?
Crais: The answer would scare you. Really.
Parker: Can you describe a typical work day?
Crais: It's pretty boring. I get up, go for a hike or work out because I like to get the exercise out of the way, then I sit down to work. The work requires discipline because there are so many distractions. Though, honestly, I can't think of a better way to spend my time than hanging out with Joe Pike and Elvis Cole and even strange and dangerous characters like Daniel.
Parker: Okay, when all the work is done (is it ever?) what do you do for plain-old, flat-out fun?
Crais: Anything outside. Hiking, scuba diving, flying. As a writer, I spend most of my time inside, staring at my computer. When the work is finished, I want OUT. It's like being paroled.
(Photo of T. Jefferson Parker © Rebecca Lawson)
(Photo of Robert Crais © exleyfotoinc)
From Bookmarks Magazine
There’s no doubt that Elvis Cole is a winning character. But critics agreed that Joe Pike, who first abandoned his role as second fiddle to Cole in The Watchman, is a worthy main protagonist in his own right. Stoic, cool, self-possessed, and relentless, Pike not only complements his partner but gives the series greater depth and flavor. Most reviewers felt that The Sentry, like previous novels in the series, has a confident plot, fast-paced action, an insider’s view of a multifaceted Los Angeles, and enough suspense to keep turning the pages. Only a couple faulted the plot and some contrived villains. Though it’s best to start at the beginning of the series, The Sentry is a good place to get to know Pike better, as well as an excellent entry in the series.
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Top Customer Reviews
The confidence, complexity and power of Crais' narrative has increased by leaps and bounds over the years. If this seems obvious, try doing the same for, say, James Patterson or Stuart Woods. You'll need to check the publication dates to to determine chronology.
The literary heft Crais and his peers (Connelly, Lehane, Pelecanos, Vachss, etc.) have brought to the Crime Thriller Genre is powerful.
Specifically to our purposes here, Crais has moved from jokey, Chandleresque, L.A.valentines to searing tales of honor and betrayal, with rich characters and genuine consequences. Both formats are highly entertaining, and while we may miss the former (and even hope, one day, for a return visit) we must appreciate the power of the latter.
The Sentry once again explores the psyche of Crais' "other" genius creation, Joe Pike. We find Pike in the midst of a mundane task--auto maintenence. Events before his eyes force his action, because Pike is above all other things, a man of honor, and can't let such things as the threat of crime pass. He inserts himself into the situation (the honor thing again), pulling himself into a years-old trail of crime and violence.
But let's move back a bit.
Crais immediately builds a sense of dread, via a flashback to New Orleans, and a nightmare from Elvis. As longtime readers are well aware, Elvis has become something of a tortured soul lately, with some very dark events in his recent times. So the stage is well-set for what's about to happen to Joe, as he enters the world of Wilson Fisk and Dru Rayne, proprieters of a take-out deli and apparent victims of a street-gang shakedown.
Elvis is recruited, police are confronted, FBI agents are suspected.
And then, things get hairy. Crais brings Daniel into the mix, a hit man who is, quite simply, the creepiest dude he's yet created, and that's saying something. Daniel provides the random menace ratcheting things up to yet another level. Characters.
Very few authors are as skilled at setting the scene and then letting loose with action as Crais. He's still not afraid, to use his own vernacular, to "stack bodies like cordwood", and does so with a seamlessness never gratuitous. Largely because we know his characters so well, and the world they inhabit. Consequences.
As Pike gets sucked into the swirl of Wilson and Dru's troubles, he of course becomes emotionally and romantically vested. Dru Rayne is a damsel in distress, and Joe is nothing if not a knight. And, as you can imagine, little is what it seems on the surface.
Crais keeps the cast of characters limited, but it's really nice to see Lucy Chenier play a significant part of the doings, because we love how she and Elvis relate. They are Crais' Big Romance, and we know he's not done with them.
His followers need no influence from here to know this is a must-read. Those new to Crais' world, take comfort--in The Sentry, he has created a great jumping-on point to begin your addiction. By the time he puts out his next, you'll be caught up!
Just know this....The Sentry is intense, and emotional. Events here will have lasting impact, we're certain, throughout future books. And the end? Well, bring a hankie, that's all we're saying.
So, unlike books who attempt to cast the bad guy or guys as insane, but come across with an unbelievable character, Crais renders his bad guy believable. He also gives us a sense why Pike hasn't had many girlfriends--he's attracted to apparently helpless, intelligent women, who turn out to shatter his illusions. Maybe like his mother who stayed too long w/ his abusive father?
The fun is in the way Crais presents the evidence while Joe and Elvis get to the bottom of it all.
I admit that since I've never read a Robert Crais Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series book that I didn't like, perhaps I was predisposed to like this one. But it was a good read from start to finish. There was none of the clever slight of hand, cheating with the evidence and characters, that marks a lesser author. I've read stories by others where suddenly the lead character "knows" something that he shouldn't, based on the narrative. Never happens with Crais. Enjoy the book. I did.