Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong story; Joe and Elvis
Cons: Two characters you just want to slap
The Bottom Line:
Joe finds fast paced, twisty case
Two poor characters
Joe Pike Takes Center Stage in Fast Paced Novel
Even though I wasn’t reading Robert Crais back then, I remember the announcement that The Watchman would focus on Joe Pike, the mostly mysterious business partner of his long running characters Elvis Cole. Fans seemed to be divided, until they actually read the book. Having read it myself now, I can understand why so many of them liked it.
Joe Pike is called early in the morning with a job he’d be reluctant to take except he owes the person on the phone a favor, and so he agrees to become the bodyguard for Larkin Conner Barkley, a spoiled heiress famous for her partying. In fact, she needs Joe’s services because she was involved in an accident in the middle of the night. She stopped to help the victims and became a witness in a Federal investigation as a result. The problem? Now someone wants to kill her.
And after Joe saves her from a second attack in less than 12 hours, he begins to suspect there is more to the story. Going deep underground, he works with Elvis to try to understand the truth. But what is really happening?
From a purely storytelling point of view, this book is a masterpiece. It’s fast paced with plenty of action and a plot that twists and turns into some very unexpected directions. I didn’t see the ending coming, but it made perfect sense when we got there. It always made it hard to put down.
My issue with the book was the characters. Not Joe or Elvis. While they still have a bit of the superhero aspect to them, they are more rounded characters here. I did find the flashbacks to Joe’s time on the LAPD to slow down the story.
No, my problem came from two characters in particular, one of which was Larkin. I get that she’s supposed to be a thinly disguised humorous version of Paris Hilton. However, I just found her annoying. She started out the book shallow and, frankly, unbelievable with her whining. Yes, by the end, she was better, but if I’d been Joe, I would have walked out by the end of the second chapter. Meanwhile, we also see LA CSI John Chen again. Once again, I get that he is supposed provide comedic relief with his obsession with “tang” (his term for sex), but he is just skin crawling annoying much of the time.
And then there’s the timelines. This is one of my pet peeves in books, and there are some mistakes here. Nothing that changes the story, but characters can’t seem to remember when events they lived through took place.
Other books in the series have been mostly written from Elvis’ first-person point of view, and one thing people worried about was the notoriously tight-lipped Joe Pike narrating a book. The book is completely told in third-person, which gets around that particular problem. There are a few sections told from other character’s point of view, and each change is a separate chapter and clearly labeled. What I found interesting was that the chapters told from Elvis’ point of view clearly had his humor in them even without the first-person narration.
I’m continuing the series on audio book, and this one was once again narrated by James Daniels. I’ve enjoyed his work with these characters in the past, so I wasn’t surprised to find that I enjoyed it here once again.
Despite the two characters I complained about, The Watchman is still a good book, especially for fans of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. The twists of the story will keep you engaged long enough for the characters to grow on you.