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Joe Pike as an Avenger with a Softer Side
on 2 February 2010
"The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death." -- Numbers 35:19
Let's face it, when a character's appeal is as a strong, silent type, it can be hard to build an appealing story around him. Since the witty dialogue opportunities are limited with Joe Pike as the detective, Robert Crais wisely chooses to let Pike's actions develop the story and his character. This decision opens up two rather interesting possibilities that are well developed: lots of action where Pike is on his own and detailed development of interactions with even very minor characters. Through those nuances of Pike's actions and reactions, we see him muddily through the reflected mirror of what others do and say . . . and the impact of Pike's decisions on them (especially children).
If Joe Pike isn't one of your favorite characters in detective fiction, I suggest you skip this book. Its appeal is mostly to the Pike aficionado rather than to the main-line fan of action detection. The plot, dialogue, and character development are there to illuminate Joe Pike rather than to provide a great detective story.
Before Joe Pike was Elvis Cole's partner, he was a highly regarded mercenary in the world's most troubled hot spots who looked after his men much in the way that Marines have always looked after their own. One of those men had been Frank Meyer. Pike had dropped out of Meyer's life after Meyer's pregnant girl friend (and later wife) issued an ultimatum to leave the mercenary life and his mercenary comrades behind.
As the book opens, Meyer's home is invaded by career criminals looking for a large score . . . the same group that has been ripping off other criminals at home in prior weeks. Meyer resists and a bloodbath ensues. The police immediately link Meyer to Pike, who vows to find out why Meyer's home was attacked and to exact revenge. Pike becomes a one-man tracking and wrecking force aided on occasion by old friends and former colleagues.
It quickly becomes apparent that something very strange must be going on, and Pike determines to find out. In the process, he doesn't much care who gets in his way . . . unless it is an innocent (and yes, there are a few).
The plot is built around how you would track career criminals who normally remain well hidden. There's an Eastern European mob connection to add color to the story. The search unfolds in pretty predictable ways so don't expect to feel much suspense.
The book is a quick and easy read, taking about a third less time than most detective novels. When you come to minor characters, slow down to notice the extra care that Robert Crais places on giving you a sense of their attitudes, values, and habits. It's one of the slickest jobs I've ever seen done with the most minor characters in a book of detection.
Put in your shooter's earplugs and get ready to race to the end.