Robert Crais is back in action with another explosive "Elvis Cole/Joe Pike" novel, The Watchman. This book, however, deals primarily with Pike as he's called in to protect Larkin Connor Barkley, the daughter of an extremely wealthy real estate developer. While speeding through Los Angeles one night, Larkin accidentally hits another car and sees someone that she shouldn't. Larkin tries to do the right thing by reporting the accident to the LAPD, along with the descriptions of the people in the second car. Before she knows what's happening, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals have her in protective custody in a futile attempt to keep her alive. Whomever she saw has placed a hit on her and within a few days of the traffic accident a team of professional killers from South America have arrived in L.A. to kill her. What makes it worse is that someone on the inside is tipping off the killers as to where she's being held by the government. An attempt is made on her life, but fails. Two government agents are shot. That's when Joe Pike is reminded of a promise that he made to someone and now that person wants him to keep Larkin alive. Within the first twenty-four hours of the assignment, Pike has to kill five men and move to three different safe houses in an effort to stay ahead of the assignation team. Pike soon realizes that if he's to keep Larkin from being killed, he is going to have to stop running and take this war to the person the young girl saw on the night of the accident. Knowing that there's only one person that he can trust, Pike turns to Elvis Cole (the World's Greatest Detective) for help. Cole is still recovering somewhat from almost being killed in the last novel. Still, it won't be long before the body count rises as both Pike and Cole do what they do best, which is taking out the bad guys.
This novel is so good that I stayed up all night to read it and my bloodshot eyes make me look as if I was out on a drunk last night. Focusing on Joe Pike this time around, The Watchman, takes us more deeply into this character's mind and how it was shaped by his early childhood and an abusive father that he loved and then as a police officer on the LAPD. We get to meet Pike's former training officer, Bud Flynn, who treated him like a son and now has to help Pike find out who the inside man is that's leaking information to the drug cartel. The action begins on almost the first page and doesn't let up as Pike quickly turns from being the hunted to being the hunter. This is definitely a man you'd want covering your back in any dangerous situation. Pike never hesitates when he has to kill someone. It's what he does best. The thing is that like Elvis Cole, Pike has a code of honor and stands by it no matter what the circumstances may be. If he gives you his word about something, he'll die trying to keep it. Pike also gets to see a bit of himself in the character of Larkin Barkley, a lonely girl who has always sought attention so that she wouldn't be invisible. Over a period of stress-filled days, they both grow to slowly respect and to love each other. When Pike tells her that he won't allow anyone to harm her, you know he's telling it like it is. This is especially true at the end of the book when Pike literally kills everyone who put this girl in harm's way. This is definitely a novel that will grab you, hold you, and leave you wanting more of Cole and Pike.
When I first started reading the "Elvis Cole/Joe Pike" series back during the early nineties, I immediately saw the author of the books as Elvis Cole and the actor, Lance Henriksen, as Joe Pike. These images have stayed with me over the last decade. The thing is that on the back of the dust jacket for The Watchman is a photo of Robert Crais, trying to give the camera a "Joe Pike" look with his sunglasses on. It doesn't work. I still see Crais as Elvis Cole, dressed in a bright Hawaiian shirt, brown Cargo shorts, and a Dodger's baseball hat, cracking his wiseass jokes. This series is one of the best on the market. All the novels are fast paced with characters that you'll want to hang out with time and again. What I don't understand is why Hollywood hasn't picked this series up. My guess is that Mr. Crais is holding out so that he can play Elvis Cole in the movie!!!