The Sentry is not only my first exposure to the Joe Pike/Elvis Cole books; it also represents my first time to read anything at all by Robert Crais. At first glance, that would seem to be a big handicap going into a reading of The Sentry (and perhaps it is more of a handicap than I realize) but I found that The Sentry works well as a standalone thriller. This is largely because this kind of book does not require a great deal of backstory or in-depth character development in order for it to be effective – although I do enjoy getting into the “heads” of characters like Pike and Cole a little more than Crais allows his readers to do here. This one is all about the action, and that is not a bad thing.
Joe Pike just can’t help himself. Pike is an ex-cop and a part-time mercenary who depends on his observational skills to help keep him alive. Even while enduring life’s mundane little chores, like filling his Jeep tires with air, Pike is aware of what is going on around him. So, when he spots a couple of obvious gang bangers entering a sandwich shop across the street, Pike easily gets there in time to keep the shop’s owner from taking too bad a beating at their hands. And that is where his next life-threatening adventure begins.
The shop is run by a Katrina refugee from New Orleans and his niece, Dru Rayne. Pike is immediately smitten by Dru and, in short order, has promised her that she and her uncle will have nothing more to worry about from those responsible for his beating. He is on the case, and he guarantees the results. Dru is just happy to have Pike around and seems convinced that he can deliver everything he promises. Pike at first believes that he is dealing with just another protection racket/shakedown directed by one of the city’s inner-city gangs. He will soon learn, however, just how wrongly he judged both the situation he walked into and the people he is trying to protect.
The Sentry is a wild ride of ever-escalating violence that will find Pike desperately searching for the whereabouts of Dru Rayne long after he realizes that she is not the woman she presented herself to be when they first met. It is a fun ride that thriller fans will find themselves rushing through in order to find out what happens when Pike and Dru are finally face-to-face again. They will not be disappointed.
This is a first rate thriller but I cannot help but be nagged by one aspect of Joe Pike’s character. I admire the friendship he and Elvis Cole have and the way that they function as perfect offsets to each other’s potential weaknesses: Cole more levelheaded and deliberate in comparison to Pike’s compulsion to jump into every situation with both feet. But why would Pike work so hard to save the life of a woman who has so obviously played him for a fool the way Dru has? Is “loyalty” that big a deal to Joe Pike…or, perhaps, his giving his word?
Rated at: 4.0
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)