Monday, January 17, 2011

Readin': The First Rule

I have a weakness for what I consider to be literary popcorn; the modern detective novel. I tend to go through them relatively quickly, usually just 1 or 2 sittings. As a result, I almost never buy them in hardback, only paper.

My latest read has been The First Rule by Robert Crais. Mr Crais has a series of books out whose main character is a wise guy private eye (my favorite kind, along the lines of Robert Parker's Spencer and Marcus Didius Falco in Lindsay Davis' series) by the name of Elvis Cole. Elvis has a partner in his Los Angeles-based detective agency named Joe Pike. Joe is the sidekick Elvis needs when the going gets rough, sort of like Hawk is to Spencer.

Mr. Crais has started writing books that feature Joe Pike as the main character with Elvis serving as sidekick when there's some detecting to be done (Joe is more of a doer than a detector). The First Rule is the second Joe Pike novel. The third, The Sentry is already out in hardback, but I'll either have to wait a year for the paperback or get it from the library. I just can't justify $25+ for such a short read.

Joe is a man of action; a former Marine, former mercenary, former L.A. cop. He has been described by another reviewer as " a Zen warrior-priest" and that seems a pretty accurate assessment. He's entirely self sufficient, deadly with weapons or without, and a truly decent guy. One thing I really like about Crais' writing is that his characters are real and believable. I end up caring a lot about Joe and Elvis because I have witnessed them do so many good things whether those things get rewarded or not.

The First Rule tells the story of what happens after one of "Joe's guys", a former mercenary that Joe hadn't seen in 10 years, is executed (along with his whole family) in a home invasion. Joe gets involved and gets to the bottom of it, but not before running into the Serbian gangs, the ATF, and a plot to get 3,000 AK-47s into the country.

I love Joe's sense of loyalty and his willingness to put everything on the line in order to find out what went wrong in Frank's life and make sure that justice is served. The ending is quite surprising, but also very satisfying. The bad guys get it, in the end and the good guys come out ahead. We get to see a surprisingly tender side of Joe in his relations with a 10 month-old that is a part of the story.

A very satisfying and recommended read. If you haven't every read anything by Robert Crais, I probably wouldn't start with this one, but you could as it stands on its own well.

When I read an author, especially if they have a series of books, I like to start at the beginning and then move through the books in chronological order of publication because then you can see how the author develops all of the individual characters over time. Also, so of the little references made to previous adventures become much richer if you have already read those.

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About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.