“Button’s face was blank as Pike approached, but a deep line cut Futardo’s brow. Pike wondered what she was thinking. Button’s jacket was already off in anticipation of the coming heat, and his hands were in his pockets. He didn’t take them out to shake. Instead, he nodded toward the canal. “There you go.” Pike looked, and in that moment he realized all his assumptions were wrong.”
I think this could be my favorite Joe Pike yet. It begins with a torture scene as Hurricane Katrina rages, and it’s clear within a couple of pages that the torturer is in an actively schizophrenic phase. For me, it was a truly awful way to begin a book, and I only managed to make it another chapter before setting it down with serious doubts about continuing. Once again, let this be a lesson: though Crais may write at the borders of mystery and thriller, he is still able to avoid many of the crutches that irritate me so about the genre. I came back to it a couple weeks later and finished in two days, really enjoying the pace and the twists in the story.
Joe stops for gas and witnesses some homies purposefully walking down a street into a po’boy sandwich shop. Joe assists, and in the process meets the owner’s niece, Dru. Joe is quite taken with her “smart eyes,” (which was adorable) and offers his help. There’s plenty of action, but almost as much problem solving, which made a nice plot balance.
“Pike stepped into the first bay and spotted the man from the Monte Carlo in an office at the rear of the building. He was in front of a television with his back to the door. The Dodgers were playing a day game. Pike checked to see that the other two men were still struggling with the fender, then slipped toward the office as silently as a fish gliding through water.”
Crais has moved away from some of the staccato style that characterized the first Pike book and let himself lapse back into his more sophisticated writing to describe Pike’s thoughts and actions. We still don’t know very much about how Pike feels, but I’d argue that’s because Pike doesn’t know either. There’s a little more complexity in the relationships, and Crais doesn’t go to the easy narrative places that he’s been before in the series, such as when Pike is briefly under suspicion by the police, or when he is talking with a community activist. I appreciate that. Overall, an extremely solid book for #14 in a series (and #3 in the Pike sub-series).