Friday, January 18, 2019

Review: The Sentry

The Sentry The Sentry by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you can’t stop to put air in your tires without having to prevent some thugs from beating up somebody then you just might be the hero of an action/crime novel.

Professional bad-ass Joe Pike keeps a sandwich shop owner from getting pummeled by some local gangsters running a protection racket, and as a bonus he meets the owner’s good looking niece, Dru, who seems interested in him. Unfortunately, the punks seem intent on getting revenge, and when Joe can’t locate Dru or her uncle following some gruesome vandalism at the restaurant he fears the worst. Joe enlists the help of his detective partner Elvis Cole to help him find the missing people. What looks to be a simple case of payback by a street gang soon turns out to be a tangled mess involving murder, the FBI, and a psychotic hitman whose deadly skills are more than a match for Pike’s.

This series started out with Elvis as the main character who was your pretty typical smart-ass private detective with Joe as the trusty violent friend who always wore sunglasses and rarely spoke. Elvis got better when Robert Crais toned down his smart mouth and gave him some feelings, and by switching Pike to the lead character in some of the later novels we learned that he’s actually more a tragic and damaged figure than the typical ‘80s macho action type he seemed at the start. That shift continues to pay off in this book, and one of the selling points for me is the odd couple friendship the two men share with the outgoing and friendly Cole completely understanding the closed off Pike to the point where almost no conversation is necessary between the two.

While the set-up sounds like a straight ahead action thriller there’s also a lot of solid twists and turns to the plot that constantly subvert expectations and make some detective work necessary. So we get Pike in full hunter mode as he keeps pushing to find the missing people. That keeps the story momentum going while Cole does some of the leg work that uncovers that Pike’s potential new snuggle bunny isn’t quite who she said she was. Which also adds some emotion to the Pike part of the equation while Cole has to worry about how his friend is dealing with all of it. So it’s a nice blend of tension with enough character stuff to make it feel like it has some emotional stakes to it.

The only thing I found lacking was the sadistic killer. He’s genuinely scary at times as well as a former mercenary like Pike so that gives us a worthy foe. However, he’s just a little too crazy town banana pants to be believable. It’s hard to accept that a guy who actually hears voices in his head and believes that zombies are real can be operating at such a high level and also capable of staying ahead of the law for years.

Still, that’s a minor complaint, and overall I really enjoyed this one as another solid piece of work from Crais.

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