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The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel
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The city was hers for a single hour, just the one magic hour, only hers. Larkin Conner Barkley lives like the City of Angels is hers for the taking. Young and staggeringly rich, she speeds through the city during its loneliest hours, blowing through red after red in her Aston Martin as if running for her life. Until out of nowhere a car appears, and with it the metal-on-metal explosion of a terrible accident. Dazed, Larkin attempts to help the other victims. And finds herself the sole witness in a secret federal investigation. For maybe the first time in her life, Larkin wants to do the right thing. But by agreeing to cooperate with the authorities, she becomes the target for a relentless team of killers. And when the U.S. Marshals and the finest security money can buy can't protect her, Larkin's wealthy family turns to the one man money can't buy -- Joe Pike. Pike lives a world away from the palaces of Beverly Hills. He's an ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary who owes a bad man a favor, and that favor is to keep Larkin alive. The one upside of the job is reuniting with Bud Flynn, Pike's LAPD training officer, and a man Pike reveres as a father. The downside is Larkin Barkley, who is the uncontrollable cover girl for self-destruction -- and as deeply alone as Pike. Pike commits himself to protecting the girl, but when they immediately come under fire, he realizes someone is selling them out. In defiance of Bud and the authorities, Pike drops off the grid with the girl and follows his own rules of survival: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters. With the help of private investigator Elvis Cole, Pike uncovers a web of lies and betrayals, and the stunning revelation that even the cops are not who they seem. As the body count rises, Pike's biggest threat might come from the girl herself, a lost soul in the City of Angels, determined to destroy herself unless Joe Pike can teach her the value of life...and love.

Customer Reviews:

  • Crais' double plotting really works here.
    Any reader of Crais' Elvis Cole series will notice the split plot techneque he uses . The Cole/Pike sidekick scheme also is a favorite device. It's a sort of meanwhile back at the condo system which is a tension builder, keeping his readers turning pages. But it is something more in this novel. This is a bit more than the usual "Los Angeles sleeze" novel. The Watchman, is of course the watchman on the walls of the city, the soldier looking out for all of us. Like a number of characters we are queasy about some of his actions - the final chapters play on this- but we know we need him and he does us a service. This was the grat moral question after WWII and there is some great art dealing with it Ford's version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance comes to mind. It is out of this tradition that the glamorizing of the cold warrior also appeared- James Bond.

    But there are few James Bonds in today's action novels. It is too hard to integrate the smooth casino dweller and the physical dare all character which was the sixties hero. Here Crais solves the problem. Cole for smoothness, Pike for fearless, risk all devotion to the good guys. And in the middle of this, an idealized, but unconsummated, love affair with a California realestate heiress who drives her Aston Martin (Remember who else favors these) in the early morning hours from club to home and encounters a terrorist money laundry event. With Pike enlisted to defend her, bodies accumulate like the last act of Hamlet. Action, Action and surprisingly a couple of final, after the action, action chapters. Are we glad to have that watchman on the wall? Can we as we were climactily told in a well known film "stand the truth?"...more info
  • Better than I could have hoped
    I am an Elvis fan so I had my doubts but I loved this book. Pike has backed Elvis up for years. Now its the other way around and what a great book. ...more info
  • A Terrific Read
    Crais makes Pike believable, creates Los Angeles as a character. His writing is superb--and he's a top plot-maker. ...more info
  • Great read, fast-paced, great characters
    This is real gem of a book. It has great characters and Joe Pike is one of the best characters the authors has brought out. Buy it, read it!...more info
  • Edge-of-the-seat, cat-and-mouse atmosphere...
    Robert Crais is not a household name, at least not in the sense that James Patterson or Tom Clancy might be so considered. Yet, if you walk into the home of an avid reader, particularly of genre fiction, you are liable to find at least one --- sometimes even three or four --- of Crais's novels on the bookshelf. They most likely will be his more recent work --- THE LAST DETECTIVE, THE FORGOTTEN MAN, THE TWO MINUTE RULE, among others --- but he is well represented. Once you've experienced his writing, and his somewhat complex creation, Elvis Cole, you can't read just one. Crais is going to be one of your A-list authors.

    Crais's latest offering, THE WATCHMAN, does not disappoint. Its protagonist, Joe Pike, is the silent partner in Cole's detective agency and, in many ways, is his dark Doppelganger --- a quiet, almost silent brooding presence, coiled and ready to strike without warning. Crais, ever mindful of Cole's fan base, does not exclude Cole from the proceedings, nor does he limit him to a cameo appearance. Cole plays an integral, if secondary, part in THE WATCHMAN, even as the focus of the work stays almost entirely on Pike.

    Pike is brought into the events of the novel when he is called upon to pay an old debt, an assignment that he is reluctant to undertake. Larkin Conner Barkley (think Paris Hilton with a slight modicum of restraint) is involved in an early morning traffic accident and suddenly finds herself a witness in the middle of an ongoing federal investigation. As a result, she is targeted by a team of shadowy and mysterious individuals who seem to know her every move in advance, and it is Pike's job to keep her alive. When each of his moves appears to be telegraphed to the killers as well, he goes dark, cutting himself off from everyone, including law enforcement and Barkley's father. But of course, "everyone" does not include Cole, whose wisecracking demeanor belies his own dangerous competence in such matters.

    Crais creates an edge-of-the-seat, cat-and-mouse atmosphere that almost makes one lose interest in the mystery of why Barkley is being pursued and who's been betraying her movements. All is revealed in good time, however, even as the author subtly drops cultural nuggets about 21st century Los Angeles and keeps the uneasy and mutual attraction between Barkley and Pike simmering. The explosive ending is perfectly executed --- a bit of rough justice that may be a prelude to a novel featuring yet another intriguing character in his expanding universe.

    THE WATCHMAN has everything that a fan of Crais's could reasonably ask for, and much more. He continues to set, meet and exceed his own lofty standards, and his readers continue to reap the rewards.

    --- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub...more info
  • A PI Story
    This book was given to me as a gift by a friend. This is my first Robert Crais book. While the writing style is great, the plot is shallow. ...more info
  • Crais can do much better
    The Watchman is a mediocre book by an author who can do much better. Over the last decade or so, Robert Crais has written a number of page turners in which, besides his trademark ability to move the story along, he has crafted intricate plots and interesting, if not altogether believable, characters, with a sprinkling of humor thrown in for good measure. In contrast, The Watchman falls flat on almost all counts.
    While The Watchman's premise is interesting, the story is quick to fizzle. One of the villains is all but given away in an early scene, and, from the middle of the book on, one gets the feeling that Crais is stuffing in filler material to meet a minimum required number of pages. There is only one twist in the plot, and it's not really significant enough to cause a major change in the general direction of things.
    Another reason why the book is not much of a thriller is that it's difficult to empathize with the characters. Bad things are happening, to be sure, but to people one doesn't care much about. Joe Pike, who in other books has worked quite well both as alter ego to Elvis Cole, and, less often, as a main character, is just too two-dimensional in the Watchman, and Crais's attempts to focus on his more vulnerable side seem contrived. Sexual tension, which the author has put to good use in previous books, adds little to this one. But then a twenty-something woman who comes out with lines like: "It's difficult being me", yet can afford to wreck an expensive convertible without second thoughts, is not exactly easy to sympathize with, and the few sparks between her and Pike seem artificial rather than naturally occurring. Relegated to the sidelines, the usually upbeat Cole comes across as corny, if not utterly moronic. Even the character of John Chen, who normally provides entertaining diversions along with key forensic insights, can't add any spice to the hapless mix.
    To tie the one loose end of the story, Crais resorts to an unnecessarily drawn out and gory epilogue. The same effect could have easily been achieved in a more subtle, succinct and tasteful way by having Cole read a blurb on a newspaper and letting the reader's imagination fill the voids. Again, one gets the impression that there was a length requirement to fulfill, hence the gratuitous and disjointed appendage.
    All in all, to the reader accustomed to the likes of LA Requiem and The Two Minute Rule, the Watchman will prove a disappointment. None of the elements that make Crais shine in previous books seem to work in his latest. Knowing what this author has to offer, one can only hope that The Watchman is just a temporary lapse rather than an indication that Crais has lost his touch.
    ...more info
  • Brilliant ........
    Im usually a slow reader .... but then again not when it comes to Robert Crais . I just couldnt put it down , Intense action , some romance in between the lines , Great Plot and story telling . Just a general Great Read ....more info
  • Excellent, Fast Paced, Well Written
    This is my first Robert Crais book and I have to say - it was excellent. The writing was top-notch, the story appropriately suspenseful, a real page turner. What I liked the most, however, what set it apart from most other mystery writers (Harlan Coben, Greg Iles excepted), is his development of characters and relationships. From the beginning, this story was not just about the thrills and chills, but also about a damaged man, excellent at his craft as a mercenary who is hired to "watch" an L.A. rich kid, to keep her from getting killed. The relationship that develops between Joe Pike and Larkin Barkley is fascinating as their lives intersect and intertwine until the conclusion, which was as it should be considering these characters. The supporting characters were well written. Even though it was the first book I've read by this author, my research shows he has written a series of books featuring Elvis Cole, one of the supporting characters, I felt as though I had a handle on this character's personality. I liked it enough that I am going to read more of his books. We'll see if I like him enough to put him in my "favorite authors" category. Nevertheless, The Watchman is an excellent book - I highly recommend it....more info
  • A Joe Pike Story, worth the price of admission
    Robert Crais started out writing his series of Elvis Cole detective stories. In the first stories, he had a partner named Joe Pike, who was a pretty enigmatic character. He's mainly a very stoic character, who is deadly in a confrontation with bad guys, never smiles, and always steps up when things are tough.

    In the current entry, we know a bit more about Joe than we did to start. He's been the subject of one book already, and so we know that he had an abusive father and was a police officer for years, though the department was somewhat uncertain of Pike, because he was never affected when he killed a suspect. These days, Pike is asked to be a bodyguard to a young woman who bears a considerable resemblance to Paris Hilton. Driving home from a party one night she was in a car accident, saw three people in the car she hit, and is now targeted by one of them as a result. The difficulty is that almost immediately after she agreed to testify someone tried to kill her, and then they tried again several days later. This makes it obvious that whoever's trying to do the killing has a source informing them of where she is, because they always seem to know.

    This means, of course, that Joe has to figure out who's trying to kill her and turn the tables on them. Of course he enlists his partner, Elvis Cole, and he also asks favors of other characters from previous books. Crais moves the plot along nicely, and has a lot of action happening in this clever story. I enjoyed it a lot and would recommend it....more info
  • Intense
    One of the better novels published during 2007. The novel is partly mystery, and partly action adventure. One can see motion picture potential, but its hard to say who would play Joe Pike. Any number of young actresses could play Larkin.

    Larkin was in an accident, and saw a man in the other car who did not want to be seen. Now someone is after her, and Joe Pike is taken on board to protect her. Pike usually carries out special investigations, and he did not really want a job as a bodyguard, but he owed someone tit-for-tat and finds himself protecting Larkin, a jet setting heiress who lives on the wild side.

    All is not as it seems. There is a unknown mole somewhere giving out information, and Pike can trust almost nobody. But Pike has resources of his own, and people owe him favors. He has his own way of dealing with things as dead bodies accumulate.

    I was a bit disappointed in the ending as there seemed to be one very large loose end, i.e., a sleezeball getting away with a large sum of money. One would have hoped seeing his feet held in the fire, but reality sometimes goes that way.

    You do learn a lot about Pike, including his family background, his service in the Marine Corps, the reason he left the police force, and his time in Africa. He has nightmares....more info
  • Great action novel about today's anti-hero.
    This was the first Elvis Cole "series" I have read and I am hooked. Now starting with Monkey's Raincoat, I look forward to reading all the Cole novels. There seem to be a number of anti-hero sidekicks to todays PI's. Spenser has Hawk, Patrick Kenzie has Bubby for example.

    The character Joe Pike most reminds me of is a spitting image of Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Brutal, quiet loners. But for some reason, Pike seems a bit more human, a bit more flawed. I hope Crais writes using him as the lead in future books. If you like hard action novels- this is the book for you. I was excited to find a new series to read. Now if only Dennis Lehane can release a new Kenzie/Gennaro novel. ...more info
  • This writer gets better and better
    Excellent book, right up there with the Jack Reacher novels. Will be on the lookout for his next book....more info
  • Nobody's badder than Joe Pike
    Finally Crais has written a book about Joe Pike with Elvis Cole as his sidekick. And we finally find out quite a bit about Joe's past and how he got to be fiction's "baddest hardass". All fans of Crais' books will love this one as well....more info
  • More Pike, Please!
    A thriller from start to finish for sure. Joe Pike, the nearly silent partner to chatty P. I. Elvis Cole finds himself bodyguarding an immature heiress and witness to the presence of a highly wanted man in the United States.

    As good as the story is, and it is good, it is the character of Joe Pike taking center stage that stands out and will be remembered. He's a man's man and his actions and abilities while formidable are not those of a superhero but rather a elite warrior. There's enough here too to keep female suspense readers enthralled. While some reviewers would have preferred Pike never show care for anyone or anything, I thought Crais was masterful in hinting at Pike's human core. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Entertaining, Fun & Suspenseful
    When I realized the young woman being protected by Joe Pike and Elvis Cole is a Paris Hilton type, I expected a superficial 2-star read, but this is a good book with a good plot and interesting characters. ...more info
  • Another Good Entry In the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike Series
    I've read nearly all of Robert Crais's Elvis Cole novels, and have really enjoyed the series as a whole. For the most part, Crais is a strong writer who knows how to write a compelling story. THE WATCHMAN, the eleventh Elvis Cole novel, is yet another strong effort with an interesting twist.

    Most of the appeal of THE WATCHMAN comes from seeing Joe Pike, who normally serves as Cole's sidekick, assume the role of leading man. In this novel, Pike is forced to serve as a bodyguard for a spoiled heiress in the mold of Paris Hilton. The novel deals with Pike's efforts to protect her, as well as the nature of their evolving relationship. It also provides Crais with another excuse to delve into Pike's background and explain what makes him the man he is.

    I like Pike very much as a character, and all the best scenes in THE WATCHMAN deal with his unique reactions to the events around him. But the background plot, which has a lot of pointless twists and turns, was too convoluted for my taste. Crais is one of those authors who attempts to fake out the reader at multiple levels, but I found the results in this case to be confusing and overblown. I think Harlan Coben does a far better job with this type of plotting.

    Overall, however, I found THE WATCHMAN to be an enjoyable read, with a lot of great action scenes and a fascinating central character. Crais's next novel in 2009 is also supposed to star Pike, and I look forward to reading that one when it comes out.

    ...more info
  • Love it!
    The Watchman was a great read. This was the first time I had read anything by Robert Crais and now I can't wait to devour the rest! I just finished Monkey's Raincoat and I really enjoyed it too. ...more info
  • Excellent book
    Great book, lots of insight into Joe Pike, although I liked my private views of Joe better....more info
  • not quite elvis
    a good story with a great charecter but not as likeable as elvis the detective joe pike is better in supporting role than lead...more info
  • Tina M
    Love Robert Crais and love, love, love, Joe Pike! I really enjoyed reading this book, but then I love all of Mr. Crais' books and characters and I am always looking forward to the next one. I of course love Elvis and he does make quite a few appearances in this book, but it is mainly about Joe, who is such a mysterious character that you just want to learn more and more about him. I hope Mr. Crais writes more Joe Pike novels, I really thought it was a good story. ...more info
  • Bye Bye Elvis
    I've read all the Elvis Cole Series with Pike as the #2 guy, I thought this one was much better with Pike as the #1 and Cole #2. I hope the Pike series will continue....more info
  • A good read
    Private Detective Joe Pike is called upon to guard Larkin Barkely, a Paris Hilton type socialite who is in danger after witnessing a crime.
    As you might expect from the bestselling author Crais, The Watchman is a real page-turner. The adventure has a number of twists and turns, and eventually incorporates Crais's main series character Elvis Cole, Pike's partner. Pike and Larkin are both drawn as three-dimensional characters with whom we can sympathize and identify, which adds a much richer layer of meaning to what could have been a throwaway story.

    One quibble: I realize that Crais has been a successful screenwriter, but I think he's too good a writer to burden his characters with "quirks" they don't need. The one that got to me here was the fact that Pike wears sunglasses. All the time. And it has to be mentioned, frequently. Outside driving the car, sure. But inside the house? At night? Please -- no one would do this, much less someone whose job it was to be a bodyguard. Pike's character speaks for itself thanks to Crais's excellent writing, and these kinds of character "business" are an unnecessary distraction.

    That pet peeve aside, I enjoyed The Watchman. This is the second Robert Crais novel I have read and I plan to read his other books.

    Reviewer: Liz Clare, co-author of the historical novel "To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis and Clark"
    ...more info
  • Spoiler alert below, but this book is fatally flawed.
    Stop reading this review if you have not yet read this book. For the rest of you, I enjoyed this book until the last pages. The end is where I realized that the book begins with a car crash that makes no sense. Larkin, the main character, gets into a car wreck that begins a fairly satisfying read. But when you get to the end of the book, you realize that there was no reason for the two cars involved in the crash to have come together. In fact, it is ridiculous. I rarely write reviews of books, but it seems I am seeing a number of these fatally flawed stories, and I felt that I had to comment. If you have read the book, think about it, Larkin crashes her car, in the early morning hours, into a Mercedes that just happens to be carrying three people involved in a massive business nightmare with her father. We learn later that the people driving the other car, the Gray's if I remember correctly, would have no reason to target Larkin. And the person in the back seat, he runs away from the scene of the crash, but then spends the rest of the book trying to capture Larkin. If he had somehow engineered the crash to grab Larkin, why run away from her? So the only explanation, that this is just a random accident, makes no sense. When I realized that I had spent hours following along with a story that is based on such a weak opening I was very disappointed....more info
  • Quality writing with a weak story
    The attraction to me of Crais' work is that he writes so well, and he carries that through at least in part, in The Watchman. However, this "Joe Pike" novel isn't told exclusively from Pike's point of view. There are several other characters who contribute to the story, filling-in what Joe Pike doesn't know at any given time. This is weak storytelling, and this comes through when Crais "tells", rather than "shows".

    The result is a weak read, far from the best (or even the usual) quality that Crais puts out. The story also lacks pace after the opening chapters, and this despite it being rather short. I won't spoil the read by revealing the plot, but suffice to say, the ultimate bad guy in the story is somewhat obvious early on and it is something of a cliche.

    It greives me to write this review, as I am a fan of Crais' work and have read most, if not all that he has done.

    I look forward to a return to form in future works....more info
  • Just as good as the Elvis Cole novels
    Elvis Cole sidekick, the enigmatic and dangerous Joe Pike, gets a high-powered starring role in "The Watchman," with The World's Greatest Detective playing backup this time. A reluctant Pike is convinced to repay an old debt by protecting Larkin Barkley, a spoiled young heiress (Paris Hilton anyone?) who rear-ended another car after a night of wild partying and is now on the run from both the mysterious accident victims, who suspiciously absconded from the accident scene, and the FBI, who seem to be hiding the real reason they want her in custody. Pike, with Cole's assistance, gets Larkin into hiding and goes after the bad guys - which may include members of the police force and the FBI - himself, setting a series of traps to find out what's going on. What I really liked about this book, besides the fast pace, colorful characters and vivid SoCal setting, all up to Crais' usual high standards, is the sensitive portrayal of the girl, who is far more than just a cliche of the pampered, spoiled celebs constantly overexposed in the tabloids. "The Watchman" is a welcome change of pace which tells us a lot about Joe Pike and the things in his past that made him who he is. Hopefully this is just the first in his own series.
    Also recommended: A Stranger Lies There - a hard-boiled thriller set in the desert around Palm Springs, it won the Malice Domestic Award for best first mystery. I actually discovered this book last year in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine review alongside "The Watchman." The review stated: "Santogrossi writes powerfully and movingly about a man who has paid for his mistakes only to find out that he's not through paying and never will be. An author to watch."
    ...more info
  • It's up to ex-cop Joe Pike to protect her.
    Robert Crais' THE WATCHMAN receives Chicago actor James Daniels' smooth and vivid narrative style as it tells of one Larkin Barkley, who is young, rich, and the sole witness to a secret federal investigation in the aftermath of a terrible accident. Her life is changed and it's up to ex-cop Joe Pike to protect her....more info