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The Sentry (Joe Pike) Kindle Edition
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Audio Download, Unabridged
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When the shop is attacked again, Wilson Smith`s niece, Dru Rayne asks Joe Pike for help. Joe tries to help, but the shop is attacked again and Dru and her uncle Wilson go missing. Where are they? What role do the gang members who beat up Wilson have in this? And why have they disappeared? What is the role of the federal agents involved?
Joe Pike is concerned, especially about Dru - to whom he feels drawn - and is keen to find her and her uncle. He involves his best friend and private investigator Elvis Cole to help him, and the information Elvis finds suggests that Dru and Wilson may not be who they claim to be. As the violence escalates, Joe discovers that he really didn't know Dru at all.
I enjoyed this novel, the pace of the story kept me turning pages and I found, in Joe Pike, a tough but vulnerable, likeable new hero. At the beginning of the story, he makes a relatively insignificant decision with far reaching consequences: a chance stop which results in him becoming involved in a series of events which expands to involve the LAPD, the FBI, Mexican and Bolivian drug gangs and a highly motivated hit man.
This is my first Robert Crais novel, it won't be the last.
But, after a series of excellent unputdownable books featuring Elvis and Joe (LA Requiem and The Last Detective being outstanding), The Sentry is a disappointing, formulaic book that I struggled to finish.
The opening gambit: Joe stumbles across a sandwich shop owner being beaten up, gets involved and takes a shine to the store owner's niece, Dru. Before they've had time to do much more than smile at each other across the coffee cups, Dru and her uncle have disappeared and Joe sets off to find them and protect them against unidentified enemies who clearly mean them no good.
Robert Crais is normally very good not only at the relationship between Elvis and Joe, but also at establishing believable minor characters. But he singularly fails to deliver on either of these aspects. The sinister killer, Dru and her uncle, FBI agents and police officers all have a part to play, but not one of them reads like a real character.
Ultimately, this feels like a book written because his publishers were pressing him to write another one to appease the fans. But if Crais really has nothing more to say about Elvis and Joe, it's about time he moved on to something different, as he has already proved he can do with The Two Minute Rule and Hostage.
The issues with ‘Sentry’ don’t surround the heroes, but the villains. One bad guy in particular is lampoonist in nature. The Crais books have always been a little heightened and fun, but this is essentially a psychopath on the loose. In the world of Pike and Cole, killers can exists, but rarely do they manage to stay at large when they leave a huge trail of bodies. ‘Sentry’ is let down because the supposed ace killer is too violent, no way would they be as well-hidden as they are shown to be here.
The cartoon like enemy makes the final section of the book overblown and a little too simple for an author who has produced some excellent crime fiction in his time. Pike may be a character of few words and be skilled when it comes to action, but this should not force the book go in this direction as he is also a very strategic thinker who tries to outwit his foe before out hurting them. This seems to have been forgotten a little in this title.
Pike is the main character here and ends up facing a bad guy who may be just as dangerous as he is...
Some themes we have seem before but very little of the usual humour - this is gritty and pulls no punches right through to the end. It is a page turner (I read it in a day) but it is quite a short novel at just over 300 pages but doesn't feel rushed. As I said, there are elements that are familiar but so is the pace and the strength of the characters and the rather atmospheric setting the story is placed in. Perhaps not the best Crais novel but still a cut above most of the opposition.
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