The First Rule by Robert Crais
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A retired mercenary and his entire family are brutally murdered in what appears to be a home invasion robbery. This wasn’t just any ex-merc though. He was an old buddy of professional kicker of asses Joe Pike, and Joe promptly sets out on a revenge rampage. I do so love a good revenge rampage!
Robert Crais has done something off-beat in his modern PI series that usually stars Elvis Cole as the first person hero of the story with Joe Pike featuring as the bad ass buddy that might as well be put in a glass case with the words BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY stenciled on it. Crais has always done a good job of creating the sense of a real bond between Pike and Cole without explaining it, but by occasionally doing a book from Joe’s third person POV it adds a new wrinkle to the series that sheds light on Cole as well as the relationship between the two men.
An internalized no-nonsense character like Pike works best as a weapon to be deployed, and this is the kind of plot that utilizes him well with him instantly picking up a trail that leads to Serbian gangsters and going after them with the subtly of a brick through a windshield. Then we get Cole coming in at the edges of the story to do the detective work and back Joe up as needed. Not that he needs much of it.
My favorite part was when Pike starts to systematically hit the gang in the pocketbook by going after their sources of income, and that seems like what he’s best suited to do. When the story started adding twists and turns it started to feel more like an Elvis Cole book that could have used more of his point of view rather than just being the support staff. Frankly, I expected to see Joe Pike mowing through ruthless gangsters John Wick style in this and was a little disappointed I didn’t get more of that.
It’s still solid work by Crais, and an entertaining crime story overall. However, I would have preferred a bit more rampaging by Pike and a little less plot.
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