Published: January 12, 2010
The organized criminal gangs of the former Soviet Union are bound by what they call the thieves’ code. The first rule is this: A thief must forsake his mother, father, brothers, and sisters. He must have no family-no wife, no children. We are his family. If any of the rules are broken, it is punishable by death.
Frank Meyer had the American dream-until the day a professional crew invaded his home and murdered everyone inside. The only thing out of the ordinary about Meyer was that- before the family and the business and the normal life-a younger Frank Meyer had worked as a professional mercenary, with a man named Joe Pike.
The police think Meyer was hiding something very bad, but Pike does not. With the help of Cole, he sets out on a hunt of his own-an investigation that quickly entangles them both in a web of ancient grudges, blood ties, blackmail, vengeance, double crosses, and cutthroat criminality, and at the heart of it, an act so terrible even Pike and Cole have no way to measure it. Sometimes, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.
Since Robert Crais first introduced Elvis Cole and Joe Pike in 1987’s “The Monkey’s Raincoat,” readers have been treated to one of the best, albeit unlikely, partnerships in crime fiction. Yet it’s inherent in such pairings — whether it’s Holmes and Watson or Spenser and Hawk — that one character ends up in the shadow of the other. For Crais, that shadow role falls to Pike (few dare call him Joe), an enigmatic, Zen-like warrior who has been the sidekick to the wise cracking Cole for most of the series with the notable exception of 2007’s “The Watchman,” in which Pike had the lead. There, as he began in 1999’s “L.A. Requiem,” Crais revealed tantalizing bits of Pike’s back story and psychological underpinnings, enriching his writing and the series in the process.
Pike has the lead again in “The First Rule,” which takes readers on a multicultural guided tour of Los Angeles crime, from Westwood to Willowbrook, Marina del Rey to Lake View Terrace.
When Joe Pike’s good friend Frank Meyer is gunned down in cold blood, even the L. A. cops are worried about who’s gonna tell Joe Pike. Pike has a reputation that’s been well earned over the years. He wears red arrows tattooed on his biceps that point forward because Joe Pike doesn’t back up or back down. Ever.
I know a lot of people who haven’t read Crais’s books might read that last bit and go, yeah, right. But we fans know. Joe Pike,one of my favorite characters, might be cut from the same cloth as Batman and truly near superhero standards, but we just don’t care. We can’t get enough of this guy. If the world was truly the way it was supposed to be, guys like Joe Pike and Elvis Cole, World’s Greatest Detective, would exist.
I believe in them. It’s a choice I’m comfortable with.
The prose is stripped down, lean and hard and merciless — and different from an Elvis Cole novel. We view Pike more from the outside even when we’re in his point of view. Pike is a very private person, and I like the mystique he manages to keep even while on center stage.
This book might not be for everyone regarding the brutal nature of the crimes and the extremes Pike goes to, but the action is dead on and very representative of what these Eastern European crime syndicates do.
A great read that will keep you turning the page and wanting more when you come to the end.