It's hard for me to believe that after reading the first Robert Crais novel I marked him down as a pale imitation of Robert B. Parker's Spenser. It might be because I lived in Boston and Spenser is set in Boston and surrounding area. The dialogue in the Spenser books is marvelous, witty and wry. Now, after reading a good chunk of Crais, I like him for very different reasons. Spenser lives in a wearier, grayer world where petty crimes turn major and justice does not always prevail. With Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Crais presents a darker, more brutal world. Spenser's sidekick, the inimitable Hawk, is tough but not in the same way that Joe Pike is tough. In The Sentry, the second of two novels featuring Pike, this toughness gets put on the line as Pike races to save a woman threatened by various LA hoodlums. The pace is non-stop and, unlike Spenser, there is very little levity but Crais propels the reader along. I'm not sure who has a better handle on Los Angeles, Crais or Michael Connelly but I do know this is a ripping good read.