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Book Review

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I first encountered Robert Crais’s work fifteen years ago with his second novel “Stalking the Angel”. Its protagonist Elvis Cole was an awesome character. He was everything I loved about the Private Detective genre: he was funny, unshakeable and loyal to his own moral code.  And Cole’s partner, Joe Pike was an equally fascinating character: a tough and enigmatic bad-ass.

After “Stalking the Angel” I devoured the rest of Robert Crais’s work and each one of them has been entertaining and highly compelling reads. Part of the reason they are is because he does something with his characters. Each story matters, and leaves the characters in different places.

1999’s “L.A. Requiem” was the best book in the Cole-Pike series  until 2007’s “The Watchman”. In “Requiem”  Crais began to explore Pike’s mysterious past and in “Watchman” he gave readers the first novel where Pike was the protagonist.  Both of these books illuminated much of Pike’s background and that didn’t diminish the character at all it only made him more fascinating.

After shifting focus back to Elvis Cole in 2008’s “Chasing Darkness” Crais turns the spotlight back on Pike in his newest novel “The First Rule,” which is both a detective story and a revenge novel.  In the opening chapter, a home invasion robbery crew bursts into the home of one Pike’s associates from his mercenary days and executes him and his entire family. This causes Pike to go looking for revenge and when he does so he brings Elvis along with him because he uncovers a mystery involving  The Serbian Mob, stolen assault rifles, and a 10 month old baby.

The plot of the story is full of lots of action and kick-ass cool moments for Pike, but where it really shines is in the quieter moments with Pike. It’s here where you realize why Pike is so interesting. He may be incredibly dangerous but he’s lost something because of it. He’s a damaged and lonely man trying to reconnect with humanity.  That makes him a character who’s both viscerally cool and easy to root for. The scenes where Pike connects with a 10 month old boy named Petar were especially interesting and poignant.

So even after 15 years Robert Crais has found a way to keep his two premier characters fresh and fascinating. “The First Rule” is a highly enjoyable read that I recommend to fans of Thriller and P.I. fiction

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler

January 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I got “If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler” over a year ago as a Christmas gift and I just finally got around to reading it. Going into the book I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It didn’t seem like anything I had read before and it was, and that’s a good thing. So thanks, Mike.

“Winter’s Night” is a wildly imaginative and challenging book that starts off deceptively simple. Much of the book features a second person you narration. So that took a little getting used at first, but once you got that down the opening of the book featured a fairly low key premise. Two readers and their search for a book that they’re reading at the same time.

These readers are searching for the same book because the book they bought had a printing error. And through a bizarre and entertaining series of coincidences the book they’re hunting keeps changing.  At the end of the second half of the book the author, Italo Calvino, introduces a literary translator and counterfeiter and the novel takes the plunge into the deep end of the weirdness pool as it becomes about secret dueling conspiracies and what the act of reading means.

Along the way Calvino gives readers hints of the books the two readers are checking out. So almost every other chapter you get  a different  story and different genre. Sometimes these hints are so good it’s almost like a tease.

It’s almost like the book is constantly changing and shapeshifting. If that sounds difficult, it was but in a good way.  It left me with the same feeling I get after I read some of Grant Morrison’s “stranger” comics, like my mind was blown. I’ve never done acid and have no interest in  but I have to imagine that this is what it feels like to have gone on a “good trip”

Categories: Book Review