Johnny's Reviews > The Watchman

The Watchman by Robert Crais
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's review
Sep 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: thriller, mystery
Read in August, 2011

The bad guy is predictable. Well, so what? The good guy is unpredictable. The Watchman is presumably a play off the literary conceit that inspired the brilliant The Watchmen graphic novel and film, “Who is watching the watchman?” Robert Crais doesn’t make any explicit reference to that, but it fits. Joe “I’m not a bodyguard” Pike is roped into performing a very lucrative favor for a person to whom, like The Godfather of Mario Puzo fame, he owes a favor. This time, he doesn’t owe the favor to a mafia crime lord, but to someone who has loaned soldiers and logistic support to Pike in an earlier effort. The favor is guarding an often “clueless,” but still full of potential, young heiress to be. It seems her hard-driving, free-spirited method of self-medicating via adrenaline (ie. driving Los Angeles streets in the wee hours at reckless speeds) wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She saw the wrong person at the wrong time and that will likely be fatal.

So, how is Pike unpredictable? The idealistic patrolman turned mercenary turned private investigator is the kind of personality who doesn’t really let you know what he’s thinking. His dialogue could be written by the same guy who wrote the Sergio Leone script for Eastwood in “The Man with No Name” series. His emotional catharsis may take down a tsunami of bodies or it may be a gentle, if unexpected, word of comfort and self-revelation. Pike isn’t merely interesting because of the number of different weapons he has mastered and the superhero way this ex-Marine sniper/mercenary manages to blend into the landscape when stalking his targets, Pike is interesting because of the way he has transformed his abused childhood and all of its associated psychological traumas into potential strength. Is that authentic strength or merely a perceived one.

And don’t get me wrong about the villain being predictable. The bad guy can be predicted because he is a “type” of bad guy, but you’re only positive toward the end. The “red herrings” of multiple possibilities come at you like the strong flow of a fast-moving river. You be the judge. The bad guy is one of these: the girl’s father, the Feds, Pike’s old partner, the old man’s lawyer, the mercenary “agent” to whom Pike owed the favor, the heiress herself, a murderer who split for Colombia some years back, the leader of a Colombian cartel, or the investor for a drug cartel. There’s no organization-chart to help you navigate the baddies (or potential baddies) and Pike doesn’t exactly follow the rules of a police procedural in order to gain the information he seeks.

Alas, this volume doesn’t support the Elvis Cole as a “dirty old man” (or at least, “dirty old man” wannabe) as I’ve suggested in other reviews. I hate finding contradictory evidence. So, guess I have to put that one in the bin marked “Mostly Unfounded Theories.” Still, this was a fast read on an international flight and it even pulled my wife into it after I finished it. I haven’t seen her devour a novel like that in years. With two thumbs up from my wife and me, I have to give this my highest rating.
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Bara'ah loved the start!! "bad guy is predictable. Well, so what? The good guy is unpredictable"!!

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