Review

The Watchman

by Robert Crais



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 on January 24, 2011

The Watchman
by Robert Crais

  • Publication Date: February 27, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743281632
  • ISBN-13: 9780743281638