“A superman risked nothing, but an average man risked everything.”
This book is part of a series (sort of), but this review contains no spoilers for previous books, aside from giving away the survival of the two main characters.
The Watchman, by Robert Crais
#1 in the Joe Pike series (#11 in the Elvis Cole series)
Simon & Schuster, February 2007
292 pages (hardcover)
A wild-living young heiress slams into trouble in the L.A. night — the kind of trouble even her money can’t shut down. After her Aston Martin collides with a mysterious car, Larkin Conner Barkley attempts to help the accident victims — and becomes the sole witness in a federal investigation. Whisking her out of her Beverly Hills world is Joe Pike — ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary — hired to shield Larkin from a relentless team of killers. But when a chain of lies and betrayals tightens around them, Pike drops off the grid and follows his own rules for survival: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters….
Robert Crais is an author that I’ve heard of before, always meant to try, but was never really excited about. Gritty crime novels usually aren’t my thing, and that’s what I was thinking these would be. When I finally did read it (after checking it out from the library and returning it unread a couple times), I was quite pleasantly surprised.
The Watchman is Crais’s first novel centering primarily on Joe Pike, but it’s also part of the larger Elvis Cole series. I typically don’t like starting series in the middle, but I figured the shift to a new central character might be a good place to pick it up, without going all the way back to the beginning (and I was reluctant to read a book almost as old as I am as my introduction to a current author).
At any rate, there were some references to previous events, but I was still able to enjoy the story, and I was actually surprised by how much I liked the two characters. Cole in particular, though he only plays a peripheral role in this book, is an extremely likeable guy. Pike is darker and more closed-off, and he’s got his own demons to deal with. I have a feeling I got to know him much better in this book than I would have in any of the previous ones.
Despite what I thought going in, this wasn’t one of those dark and gritty novels that catches my interest but then reminds me that they’re just not my thing. It certainly could have been, especially with Pike as the main character, but Crais didn’t write it that way. There’s an understated humor throughout, more with some characters than others, and I thought that it balanced nicely with the darker parts of the story.
Because there is quite a bit of darkness. Don’t misunderstand when I talk about humor and think this is a comedic mystery because it’s not. There’s nothing that’s laugh-out-loud funny or roll-your-eyes ridiculous… just enough to prompt a smirk here and there.
I really enjoyed The Watchman, and I’m definitely adding the entire series to my TBR.
Does this sound like something you would pick up? What was the last book you read that wasn’t what you were expecting (in either a good or a bad way)?