Tag Archives: Joe Pike

‘The First Rule,’ by Robert Crais

The First Rule

I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to observe that when you pick up a novel advertised as an action thriller and it begins with a happy family doing ordinary stuff, something awful is about to happen.

And so it is in Robert Crais’ The First Rule. The man whose life is destroyed here is Frank Meyer, a guy who used to work for Joe Pike as a mercenary. The police inform Joe of this, and question him. The other victims of this particular gang of murderers and thieves have been involved in organized crime, so they figure Frank must have been dirty too. Joe cannot believe that. With the help of his friend and business partner, private detective Elvis Cole, Joe employs his formidable military skills to unravel a scheme involving prostitution, illegal arms sales, and a kidnapped baby.

Author Crais has intentionally moved the Elvis Cole series from straight mysteries to action thrillers, which means a bigger role for the mysterious and dangerous Joe Pike. This has been a good move, as Joe is one of those laconic characters – few words and economical but explosive action – who work extremely well in high tension stories. A particular pleasure in The First Rule is the ironic scenes showing Pike’s developing relationship with the rescued baby – all the more touching in contrast with Joe’s cold, focused, almost monastic persona.

It occurred to me as I read that there are theological implications here (certainly not intended by the author). Joe is the kind of rescuer every true victim dreams of, though often silently. He does not only inflict violence on evildoers – he is terrible (in the sense of inspiring terror) when he does it. People who live in relatively safe and just environments have trouble understanding the need for a terrible avenger. It’s not enough that the wicked should be slain – they should be frightened as they die. Modern westerners don’t generally understand the aspect of terror that belongs to the just God of the Bible, but the oppressed and the persecuted do.

Anyway, I recommend The First Rule for those who can handle the language and violence. First class action entertainment.

‘The Promise,’ by Robert Crais

Robert Crais has been writing detective fiction at the top of the publishing pyramid for some time. His latest Elvis Cole novel, The Promise, is one of his best. Its pleasures are not only those of a well-crafted crime story. It also touches the heart in surprising ways.

I don’t know if author Crais picked the trick up from Dean Koontz, but he takes advantage of the opportunities offered by using a dog in a story. He did this first with his novel Suspect, which I reviewed here, and the same characters, K9 Officer Scott James and his dog Maggie, reappear here and help out. Maybe not everyone feels the way I do, but for me, working in a few scenes from a dog’s point of view raises the poignancy level of a book about 300%.

On top of that, there’s a human moment of what I can only call grace in the book that was deeply moving, and it came from a character from whom I didn’t expect it.

The plot? Oh yes, Elvis Cole is hired by a woman to find a co-worker who has disappeared. The missing woman recently lost her only son, a journalist, in a suicide bombing in North Africa. She’s gone off the radar and seems to be consorting with bad people. The investigation reveals a bundle of tangled threads and dissimulations. Elvis is assisted by his scary friend Joe Pike, and Joe’s scary mercenary friend Jon Stone.

A really good book. It’ll move you. Cautions for the usual.