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The Sentry

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Sentry (2011) Robert Crais

This is definitely a book I haven’t read before!

This is also a book focusing on Joe Pike.

Let me be clear, I don’t dislike Joe. I just prefer Elvis. But I see to be in a minority, from this blurb by Robert Crais about Joe Pike.

Like Elvis Cole, Joe had always gotten a lot of mail from women, but the tone of his mail now changed. They sent gifts. They sent pictures. They wrote, “I love Joe Pike,” but not in a way suggesting they were fond of him or maybe kinda crushing on him. Pike’s fans were feral. They said, “I WANT Joe Pike.”

Meaning: Pike is my love slave!

I get it. It is not lost on me that the young male heartthrobs in the current crop of insanely successful vampire films are all brooding bad-boy loners, held in check from their evil ways only by the love of a good woman, who is herself moved by their tortured hearts. Has any vampire been as lethal as Joe Pike, or as tortured?

Pike is the ultimate bad boy. He is dangerous, enigmatic, and male with a capital M, but it is his damaged soul that makes him sexy with a capital S. His lack of emotion suggests an inner landscape so damaged it is as barren as the desert surrounding Tikrit. It also suggests an emptiness waiting to be filled, and therein lies Pike’s tragic nature and, I suspect, the sexy-hot core of his huge appeal. My female readers intuit that he is redeemable, and an awful lot of them want to help with his redemption!

I was thinking about this last night–about characters who are are as damaged as Pike is. I came up with Carrie Vaughn‘s Cormac (a minor character who eventually got his own book), in that they both are poorly socialized men who have honed themselves into killers–but killers who have a strong personal sense of right and wrong.

The other examples I thought of aren’t quite right: Hawk, from Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series is a very affable man, and functions well in society. Simon Green’s John Bloody Taylor is messed up, but has a sense of humor. Mike Carey’s Felix Castor is extremely messed up, but he also makes tons of mistakes and repents his errors.

There’s not anything wrong with Joe Pike, it’s just that I don’t get why so many people love characters like him. They’re silent and brooding and have no sense of humor. Yetch.

Regardless, in this book Pike comes across two gang members beating up a small business owner, and steps in. The man wants to forget everything, but when his niece comes in, everything changes.

She started her car and gave him a parting smile. “If you’re going to be dangerous, you might as well be dangerous for me.”

Pike said nothing.

“Do. You. Get. It?”

“You don’t understand.”

“What? What don’t I understand?”

“War is what I do.”

Pike hung up.

John Chen has morphed into something rather different from when he started.

John Chen was corrupt. A paranoid with low self-esteem, Chen lived for the headline, and this was normally Cole’s ace. Cole often gave Chen information that allowed him to make breakthroughs on cases he would not have made otherwise.

Chen, whose obsessions in life revolved around women and money, currently drove a Porsche Boxster. The women had so far eluded him.

I prefer this description to having to read Chen’s obsessions with sex.

But I did like this bit. It gave him a bit more humanity than that first description.

All you have to do is look at me. I’m the guy defense attorneys make out to be the bumbling geek, so juries laugh. I hear cops making cracks when I’m at a scene. Every time I look in a mirror, I know why the girls laugh.”

“John, you don’t have to—”

Chen held up a finger, stopping him.

“When I first met you guys, I was freakin’ terrified of Joe. He was everything that scares me shitless. Here’s this guy, and no one would have the balls to make a crack or laugh. Here he is, a fucking street monster, but of all the people I deal with, he treats me with more respect than anyone else.”

Chen lifted the bag.

“So I will find a way to do this.”

Regarding military service, it is not mentioned when Cole or Pike served, but service in the desert is alluded to.

The young troops Pike knew, fresh back from the desert, called it spider-sense, taking the term from the Spider-Man movies. They told him if you humped the desert long enough you developed a sixth sense that tingled like angry ants when the crosshairs found your skin. Pike had humped jungles, deserts, and pretty much everywhere a man could hump for most of his life, and now he felt the tingle.

And I still appreciate Cole’s appreciation of food and his interesting in cooking.

The joy of cooking was oblivion. Slicing and seasoning made it easier not to think.

It’s those little things that make Elvis Cole so much more interesting to me than Pike.

However, there were two bits at the end that I particularly liked.

SPOILER (rot 13)

Cvxr fnj gur ohyyrgf uvg ure, ubj ure fuveg chpxrerq naq evccyrq. Ur fnj ure rlrf syhggre, naq ure zbhgu bcra nf vs fur qvqa’g xabj jung unq unccrarq. Fur ernpurq hc gb gbhpu fbzrguvat gung jnfa’g gurer, gura sryy. Cvxr qvq abg tb gb ure. Ur ghearq naq fnj Ryivf Pbyr, fgvyy ubyqvat uvf tha.

Cvxr fnj gur grnef fcvyy qbja Pbyr’f snpr. Cvxr jngpurq uvf sevraq pel, naq arvgure bs gurz zbirq.

That, again, is why I like Cole so much.

But this however, made Joe for once seem human.

Pbyr jrag gb gur fyvqref nf Wbr Cvxr pnzr guebhtu gur sebag qbbe. Cvxr jnf senzrq va gur qbbe sbe n zbzrag, fheebhaqrq ol yvtug, gura ur fuhg gur qbbe naq pnzr bhg bagb gur qrpx.

Gurl fgbbq snpr-gb-snpr, arvgure bs gurz fcrnxvat, gura Cvxr chyyrq uvz pybfr, naq uhttrq uvz. Qvqa’g fnl n jbeq, whfg uhttrq uvz, naq jrag gb gur envy.

So it’s a good book, but I enjoyed the Elvis Cole bits more than the Pike bits, even though I did like seeing Pike make poor choices.
Rating: 7.5/10

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Categories: Mystery, Private Eye     Comments (0)    



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