Coming soon.....

What I'm reading now: If the Dead Rise Not (Bernie Gunther Novels) by Phillip Kerr

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The First Rule

As a crime fiction enthusiast it is hard to believe I haven't picked up Robert Crais before now. I feel a little odd reviewing this book since I have not read any others in the Joe Pike/ Elvis Cole series first introduced in 1992. However I do believe that any good novel in a series should be able to stand alone whether the reader has joined the series for the first or fiftieth time. So here goes..... The First Rule (Joe Pike Novels) begins in Los Angeles, Westwood to be exact, with the murder of a former mercenary colleague of Joe Pike's, Frank Meyer, and his family. The crime distresses Pike to no end- he worries his friend may have gotten involved with illegal dealings and he laments the fact that his once fit and fiery partner was unable to protect himself and his family. Joe Pike feels it is his personal responsibility to find and assassinate Frank's killers. The trail to the orchestrator of the murder leads Pike to gang members in Compton, the Serbian mob in Mount Olympus, Eastern European prostitutes in the Valley, and ultimately to an innocent child hidden in a warehouse in Sunland. The characters we meet along the way are engaging, especially the team of Rina Marcovic and her patsy Yanni. They were well written, Rina's dialogue is particularly fun to read.

I have to say the first half of the book was a page turner (SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ MORE OF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS) until the gang shown down in Sunland. Then the book takes a decidedly mobster turn and for me started falling a bit flat. It's not that the story isn't interesting, it's just that I don't particularly care for mob stories. That said the story does wrap up convincingly well.

Crais is definitely a master crime fiction writer with a great pair of hard-boiled detectives in Pike and Cole. I found Cole to be the more interesting of the two, he seemed to have more heart and personality; I only wish he had played a bigger role in this book. Pike was hit and miss for me; I enjoyed the parts where he tracked down the criminals but was less keen on the action centered parts where he beats up the bad guys, it's just testosterone overload! Crais had a golden opportunity at the end of the book to humanize Pike by letting him keep the boy Petar, but he passed it up and keeps Pike as emotionally complex as a robot. I also was unclear about the John Stone character, he was underdeveloped and for that reason seemed unnecessary.

All in all this is a great read upfront but doesn't quite deliver on its promise. I'm sure Crais fans will find it a great addition to the series but I'm not sure if new readers unfamiliar with his work will find this the best introduction to the series. I certainly think I need to start from the beginning with The Monkey's Raincoat.

1 comment:

Paul D. Brazill said...

It is a weird way to get into Elvisworld but maybe a good idea. then you have no preconceptions about Pike- much loved by Cole fans.

Top post.