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THE FIRST RULE by Robert Crais

THE FIRST RULE

By Robert Crais

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-15613-7
Publisher: Putnam

Joe Pike cuts a wide swath through L.A.’s Serbian mob in his quest to avenge an old member of the team he headed.

Years before he became a partner in Elvis Cole’s detective agency (Chasing Darkness, 2008, etc.), Pike was a mercenary whose sharpshooting skills brought him into contact with a wide range of people, many of whom didn’t survive the encounter. Now he’s grieving because inoffensive garment importer Frank Meyer, a family man who shared some of the darkest scenes in Pike’s checkered past, has been executed along with his wife, two sons and nanny. It’s the seventh home invasion the LAPD has recorded in recent months, but none of the victims seem randomly chosen; in every earlier case, they had caches of drug money or product that made them natural prey. So the LAPD assumes Meyer has been continuing to lead a double life. Pike doesn’t. Partly to clear his old mate’s name, but mostly for revenge, he methodically sets out to hunt down the killers. Crais knows that the story of the lone vigilante going up against a powerful criminal organization is so familiar that he needs to supply new complications. These include a ten-month-old baby, a sweet series of deceptions and double-crosses, and a bulldog ATF agent who threatens to lock up Pike under the Homeland Security Act if he kills the man he’s looking for. Not to worry, though: There’ll be plenty of opportunities for Pike and his allies to ventilate lesser fry. Crais plants each twist carefully and detonates it expertly, but the main draw here is the triumphs of a killing machine licensed to avenge his old friend by emptying his sidearm at every target in sight.

Righteous vengeance, a reckless pace, a stratospheric body count and just enough surprises to keep you turning the pages. The pleasures may be primitive, but they’re genuine.