Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: The Sentry by Robert Crais

The extraordinary new crime novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

Dru Rayne and her uncle fled to L.A. after Hurricane Katrina; but now, five years later, they face a different danger. When Joe Pike witnesses Dru's uncle beaten by a protection gang, he offers his help, but neither of them want it-and neither do the federal agents mysteriously watching them.

As the level of violence escalates, and Pike himself becomes a target, he and Elvis Cole learn that Dru and her uncle are not who they seem- and that everything he thought he knew about them has been a lie. A vengeful and murderous force from their past is now catching up to them . . . and only Pike and Cole stand in the way.

You might wonder why I, a romance novel junkie, would want to read books like Robert Crais' The Sentry. Well, I'll tell you - they're damn good. I love the strong men with their unwavering moral compasses who fight the good fight for no reason other than that they'll see somebody hurting someone else and need to take a stand to stop it. Joe Pike (and Lee Child's Jack Reacher too), bestill my beating heart.

Joe Pike is not a warm and fuzzy guy. He doesn't even smile. What he does however and to paraphrase Liam Neeson's character in Taken, is have a specific set of skills and isn't afraid to use them. A former Marine, LAPD cop, and mercenary, Joe takes serious umbrage when he sees someone made into a victim and that is what he believes happens one day when he walks in on two LA gang members beating up an older, defenseless man in his sandwich shop. Joe gets emotionally involved with the man and his niece, an attractive woman in her thirties, and ends up enlisting his friend and business partner Elvis Cole to help him discover what has happened to them.

The Sentry moves slowly, unraveling each new mystery rather delicately until the ending, which barrels along like a freight train to an unsurprising yet satisfying climax. The ultimate villain is a particularly nasty kind of crazy but sometimes it felt as if there was some disconnect between what he was doing and what was otherwise happening, insofar as the level of suspense goes. For most of The Sentry, the main characters were unaware of the real bad guy, but that was really because of the length of time it took for Joe to figure things out. This is a complicated mystery and smartly written in usual Crais style.

Crais' Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels are always a treat to read. Cole is a tough guy wrapped in a more human package and serves as a great foil for Joe's stoic personality without being sitcom-y. In The Sentry, Cole is a bit emotionally fragile, teetering on the brink of serious depression and battling some PTSD. I'm not sure if it was better for him to be busy and distracted rather than not involved in Joe's mystery in the long run; being forced to defend Joe's life, while reinforcing their brother-like bond, takes a toll on Elvis. It made me wonder what would happen to him between this book and the next. Joe, on the other hand, always surprises me. With a poker face that would impress Batman, Joe seems like an island but he is not; this is a man who feels deeply and has a strong sense of responsibility to the woman who he promised to protect.

The Sentry is a good book. Read it.

1 comment:

Jen D. said...

Great review Jen. I love it when you come out of left field with something I've never heard of. =) Glad to have ya back.