Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel by Robert Crais








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Robert Crais continues to satisfy his fans and improve the value of his franchise with his latest book, The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel. Fans will know that Joe Pike was the sidekick of private investigator Elvis Cole in almost a dozen previous novels by Crais. By the subtitle, Crais appears to announce that Joe Pike will become a brand of his own, like a spin-off television series. In The Watchman, the sidekick takes center stage, and his integrity and character develop alongside the fast-paced plot. In The Watchman, Pike agrees to protect an heiress from harm in order to pay back an old debt. Here’s an excerpt, all of Chapter 3, pp. 22-27:


Pike turned into the Bristol Farms on Sunset at Fairfax, and parked as far from the intersection as possible, hiding their Jeep.

She said, “What are we doing?” “I have to call someone. Get out.” “Why don’t you call from the car?” “I don’t trust my cell. Get out.” “Can’t I wait here?”


Pike was concerned she might be recognized even with the new hair and sunglasses, but she might change her mind about staying with him, take off running, and get herself killed. They had known each other for exactly sixteen hours. They were strangers.

Larkin hurried around the Jeep to catch up.

“Who are you calling?”

“We need new wheels and a place to stay. We need to learn some­thing about the people who are trying to kill you. If the police are after us, it changes our moves.”

“What do you mean, moves? What are we going to do?”

Pike was tired of talking, so he didn’t. He led her past the flower stand at the front of the market to a bank of pay phones, and pushed quarters into a phone.

Larkin hooked her arm around his, as though the Santa Anas would blow her away if she wasn’t anchored. She glanced into the market.

“I want to get something to eat.”

“No time.”

“I could get something while you’re talking.”


Pike owned a small gun shop in Culver City, not far from his con­dominium. He had five employees: four men and one woman—two who were full-time and three who were former police officers.

A man named Ronnie answered on the second ring.

“Gun shop.”

Pike said, “I’m calling in two.” Pike hung up.

Larkin squeezed his arm.

“Who was that?”

“He works for me.”

“Is he a bodyguard, too?”

Pike ignored her, watching the second hand circle his Rolex. Ronnie would be walking next door to the laundromat for Pike’s call.

While Pike waited, two men in their late twenties passed by on their way out of the market. One of them looked Larkin up and down, and the other stared at her face. Larkin looked back at them. Pike tried to read if the second man recognized her. Out in the parking lot they goosed each other before climbing into a black Audi, so Pike de­cided they hadn’t.

Pike said, “Don’t do that again.”


“Make eye contact like you did with those guys. Don’t do it.”

Pike thought she was going to say something, hut instead she pressed her lips together and stared into the market.

“I could have gotten something to eat by now.”

At the two-minute mark, Pike made his call and Ronnie picked up. Pike sketched the situation, then told Ronnie to close the shop and send everyone home. The men who wanted Larkin dead had al­most certainly known Pike’s identity when they hit the safe houses, but hadn’t needed it to find the girl. Now that Pike had disappeared with her, they would try to find Larkin by finding him, and this knowl­edge would give them the people in Pike’s life like overlapping rip­ples, one ripple leading to another, each ripple breaking the next.

Ronnie said, “I hear you. What do you need?”

“A car and a cell phone. Get one of those prepaid phones they sell at Best Buy or Target.”

Okey-doke. You can use my old Lexus, you want. That okay?”

Ronnie’s Lexus was twelve years old. Ronnie’s wife had handed it down to their daughter, but his daughter was away at law school, so mostly the car sat parked. It was dark green.

Pike told Ronnie to leave the Lexus at an Albertsons they both knew in thirty-five minutes, just leave it and walk away. Thirty-five minutes would give Pike time to hit his condo before ditching the Jeep.

Pike said, “Ronnie. Turn on the security and surveillance cam­eras when you guys lock up. Then don’t go back. Nobody go back until you hear from me.”

“Might be better if we stayed open. If your friends roll around we could sort’m out.”

“LAPD might come around, too.”

“I hear you.”

Pike hung up and immediately walked the girl back to his Jeep. He felt the passing minutes like a race he was losing. Once you en­gaged the enemy, speed was everything. Speed was life.

She pulled at his arm. “You’re walking too fast.” “We have a lot to do “Where are we going?” “My place.”

“Is that where we’re going to stay?”

“No. The shooters are going there, too.”

Pike lived in a sprawling condominium complex in Culver City, less than a mile from the sea. A stucco wall surrounded the grounds, with gates that required a magnetic key. The condos were arranged in four-unit pods laid out around two tennis courts and a communal pool which Pike never used. Pike’s unit was set in a far back corner, shielded from the others.

Pike drove directly to his complex, but didn’t enter the property. He circled the wall, looking for anyone who might be watching the gates or watching out for his Jeep. Pike hated bringing the girl to his condo, but he believed the window of time through which he could enter was shrinking.

Pike circled the complex once, then turned into the rear drive and waved the gate open with his key.

Larkin looked around at the buildings.

“This isn’t so bad. I thought you probably lived in some grungy rat hole. How much money do bodyguards make?”

Pike said, “Get on the floor under the dash.”

“Can I get something to eat at your place? You gotta have some­thing to eat, don’t you?”

“You won’t be getting out of the car.”

Pike knew she rolled her eyes even without seeing it, but she slithered down under the dash.

“When men ask me to go down like this, it’s usually for something else.”

Pike glanced at her.


“Then why don’t you smile? Don’t bodyguards ever smile?”

“I’m not a bodyguard.”

Pike drove to the small lot where he normally parked. Only three cars were in the lot, and he recognized all three. He stopped, but did not take the jeep out of gear or shut the engine. The grounds were landscaped with palm trees, hibiscus, and sleek birds-of-paradise. Concrete walks wound between the palms. Pike studied the play of greens and browns and other colors against the stucco walls and Spanish roofs.

Larkin said, “What’s happening?”

Pike didn’t answer. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, so he let the Jeep drift forward and finally shut the engine. He could take the girl with him, but would move faster without her.

Pike held omit the Kimber.

“I’ll be thirty seconds. Here.”

She shook her head.

“I hate guns.”

“Then stay here. Don’t move.”

Pike slipped out of the Jeep before she could answer and trotted up the walk to his door. He checked the two dead-bolt locks and found no sign of tampering. He let himself in and went to a touch pad he had built into the wall. Pike had installed a video surveil­lance system that covered the entrance to his home and the ground floor.

Pike set his alarm, let himself out, and trotted back to the Jeep. Larkin was still under the dash.

She said, “What did you do?”

“I don’t know anything about these people. If they come here, we’ll get their picture and I’ll have something to work with.”

“Can I get up?”


When they passed back through the gate, no one appeared in the rearview mirror. Pike turned toward the Albertsons.

Larkin climbed out from under the dash and fastened her seat belt. She looked calmer now. Better. Pike felt better, too.

She said, “What are we going to do now?”

“Get the new car, then a safe place to stay. We still have a lot to do.”

“If you’re not a bodyguard, what are you? Bud told my father you used to be a policeman.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“What do you do now? When someone asks what you do, say you’re at a party or a bar, and you’re talking to a woman you like, what do you tell her?”


Larkin laughed, but it was high-pitched and strained.

“I grew up with businessmen. You’re no businessman.”

Pike wanted her to stop talking, but he knew the fear she had been carrying was heating the way coals will heat when you blow on them, and the chatter would only get worse. This was a quiet time, and the quiet times in combat were the worst. You might be fine when hell was raining down, but in those moments when you had time to think, that’s when you shook like a wet dog in the wind. Pike sensed she was feeling like the dog.

Pike touched the side of her head. When he touched her, her lips trembled, so he knew he was right.

“Whatever I am, I won’t hurt you, and I won’t let anyone else hurt you.”

“You promise?”

“Way it is.”

He smoothed the spiky hair still coarse with fresh color, but that’s when she spoke again.

“You think I’m oblivious, but I know what you’re doing. We could leave Los Angeles right now and hide someplace like Bishee, Ari­zona, but that isn’t what you want. You don’t want to hide; you want to get them before they get us. That’s why you want their pictures. You’re going to hunt them down.”

Pike concentrated on driving.

“Told you. I’m not a bodyguard.”

She didn’t say anything more for a while, and Pike was thankful for the silence.


Any reader who enjoys crime fiction will enjoy reading The Watchman. After one dose, you’re likely to want more of Joe Pike.


Steve Hopkins, May 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the June 2007 issue of Executive Times


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