Title: The Sentry
Hardback: 306 pages
Publication Date: 03/03/2011
Vampires. Zombies. Werewolves. After reading the first chapter of Robert Crais’s new thriller, The Sentry, I was rather confused. Had he written a fantasy novel? Thankfully it soon became apparent that the answer to this question was a resounding “no” [not that I have anything against fantasy novels – in fact, I’m a big fan – it’s just that it’s not what I was expecting when I opened the book]. For a few pages at least, Crais really had me going.
The sentry of the title is series character Joe Pike – ex-Marine, ex-cop and ex-mercenary turned semi-vigilante, Joe cannot stand by when he sees two gang members attack a shop-owner in Los Angeles. But this act of heroism has unintended and far-reaching consequences. For, not only does it bring Joe into the orbit of the shop-owner’s beguiling niece, Dru Rayne, but also to the attention of the federal agents who are mysteriously watching the store. Very soon, as the violence begins to escalate, the reader begins to realise that things are not as they seem and that Pike has inadvertently stumbled into something much bigger than it had first appeared …
Written with Crais’s usual engaging and, at certain points in the novel, almost-poetic prose style, The Sentry is an engrossing read. The plot is incredibly well paced and once again Crais proves himself to be one of the best writers of dialogue in the crime and thriller genre. Although it is hardly surprising that he is quite so good at both plot and dialogue considering that he was a scriptwriter for television series such as Miami Vice, Kagney & Lacey and Hill Street Blues.
Another strength of the series – and also of The Sentry – is that Crais obviously has a real affection for his two central characters, Pike and Elvis Cole. In fact, Pike was supposed to die in the first novel [1987’s The Monkey’s Raincoat], but during the course of writing the book Crais realised that he had become too attached to Pike to kill him off.
And it has certainly been notable over the last few books in the Pike & Cole series that Joe Pike has moved from being ostensibly Cole’s sidekick, to being a character in and of his own right. And in The Sentry it is good to see Pike proving to be more than just an efficient and largely silent weapon by falling for someone [Dru] and also having to call Cole for assistance [which is an inversion of the norm in Crais’s series].