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Patrick AndersonIt's a good plot, and Crais keeps it spinning with his accustomed skill. He's a stylist; his action scenes are not so much written as choreographed.
—The Washington Post
"The organized criminal gangs of the former Soviet Union are bound by what they call the thieves' code. The first rule is this: A thief must forsake his mother, father, brothers, and sisters. He must have no family - no wife, no children - because only other criminals are his family. If any of the rules are broken, it is punishable by death." "Frank Meyer had the American dream - a wife and family he adored, a successful business - until the day a professional crew invaded his home and murdered everyone inside. The only thing out of the ordinary
"The organized criminal gangs of the former Soviet Union are bound by what they call the thieves' code. The first rule is this: A thief must forsake his mother, father, brothers, and sisters. He must have no family - no wife, no children - because only other criminals are his family. If any of the rules are broken, it is punishable by death." "Frank Meyer had the American dream - a wife and family he adored, a successful business - until the day a professional crew invaded his home and murdered everyone inside. The only thing out of the ordinary about Meyer was that - before the family and the business and the normal life - a younger Frank Meyer worked as a professional military contractor, a mercenary, with a man named Joe Pike. Frank was one of Pike's guys, and they faced death together in every rotten hellhole around the world." "The police think Meyer was hiding something very bad, because previous home invasions by the crew had targeted only criminals with large stashes of cash or drugs. Pike cannot believe it, and with the help of Elvis Cole, he sets out on a hunt of his own: to clear his friend, to punish the people who murdered him." "A trail that at first seems relatively simple, however, very quickly becomes complicated, as the two of them find themselves entangled in a web of ancient grudges, blood ties, blackmail, vengeance, double crosses, and cutthroat criminality, and at the heart of it all, an act so terrible even Pike and Cole have no way to measure it." Sometimes, the past is never dead. It's not even past.
FRANK MEYER CLOSED HIS COMPUTER as the early winter darkness fell over his home in Westwood, California, not far from the UCLA campus. Westwood was an affluent area on the Westside of Los Angeles, resting between Beverly Hills and Brentwood in a twine of gracious residential streets and comfortable, well-to-do homes. Frank Meyer—more surprised about it than anyone else, considering his background—lived in such a home.
Work finished, Frank settled back in his home office, listening to his sons crash through the far side of the house like baby rhinos. They made him happy, and so did the rich scent of braising beef that promised stew or boeuf bourguignon, which he never pronounced correctly but loved to eat. Voices came from the family room, too far away to make out the program, but almost certainly the sound of a game show on television. Cindy hated the nightly news.
Frank smiled because Cindy didn’t much care for game shows, either, but she liked the background sound of the TV when she cooked. Cindy had her ways, that was for sure, and her ways had changed his life. Here he was with a lovely home, a growing business, and a wonderful family—all of it owed to his wife.
Frank teared up, thinking how much he owed that woman. Frank was like that, sentimental and emotional, and had always been that way. As Cindy liked to say, Frank Meyer was just a big softy, which is why she fell in love with him.
Frank worked hard to live up to her expectations, and considered it a privilege—beginning eleven years ago when he realized he loved her and committed to reinventing himself. He was now a successful importer of garments from Asia and Africa, which he resold to wholesale chains throughout the United States. He was forty-three years old, still fit and strong, though not so much as in the old days. Okay, well—he was getting fat, but between his business and the kids, Frank hadn’t touched the weights in years, and rarely used the treadmill. When he did, his efforts lacked the zeal that had burned fever-hot in his earlier life.
Frank didn’t miss that life, never once, and if he sometimes missed the men with whom he had shared it, he kept those feelings to himself and did not begrudge his wife. He had re-created himself, and, by a miracle, his efforts had paid off. Cindy. The kids. The home they had made. Frank was still thinking about these changes when Cindy appeared at the door, giving him a lopsided, sexy grin.
“Hey, bud. You hungry?”
“Just finishing up. What am I smelling? It’s fabulous.”
Pounding footsteps, then Little Frank, ten years old and showing the square, chunky build of his father, caught the doorjamb beside his mother to stop himself, stopping so fast his younger brother, Joey, six and just as square, crashed into Little Frank’s back.
Little Frank shouted, “Meat!”
Joey screamed, “Ketchup!”
Cindy said, “Meat and ketchup. What could be better?”
Frank pushed back his chair, and stood.
“Nothing. I’m dying for meat and ketchup.”
She rolled her eyes and turned back toward the kitchen.
“You’ve got five, big guy. I’ll hose off these monsters. Wash up and join us.”
The boys made exaggerated screams as they raced away, passing Ana, who appeared behind Cindy. Ana was their nanny, a nice girl who had been with them almost six months. She had bright blue eyes, high cheekbones, and was a fantastic help with the kids. Another perk of Frank’s increasing success.
Ana said, “I’m going to feed the baby now, Cindy. You need anything?”
“We’ve got it under control. You go ahead.”
Ana looked in at Frank.
“Frank? Anything I can do?”
“I’m good, hon. Thanks. I’ll be along in a minute.”
Frank finished putting away his paperwork, then pulled the shades before joining his family for dinner. His office, with its window facing the nighttime street, was now closed against the darkness. Frank Meyer had no reason to suspect that something unspeakable was about to happen.
AS FRANK ENJOYED DINNER with his family, a black-on-black Cadillac Escalade slow-rolled onto his street from Wilshire Boulevard, the Escalade boosted earlier that day from a shopping center in Long Beach, Moon Williams swapping the plates with an identical black Escalade they found outside a gentlemen’s club in Torrance. This was their third time around the block, clocking the street for pedestrians, witnesses, and civilians in parked cars.
This time around, the rear windows drooped like sleepy eyes, and street lights died one by one, Jamal shooting them out with a .22-caliber pellet pistol.
Darkness followed the Escalade like a rising tide.
Four men in the vehicle, black cutouts in the shadowed interior, Moon driving, Moon’s boy Lil Tai riding shotgun, Jamal in back with the Russian. Moon, eyes flicking between the houses and the white boy, wasn’t sure if the foreigner was a Russian or not. What with all the Eastern Bloc assholes runnin’ around, boy coulda been Armenian, Lithuanian, or a muthuhfuckin’ Transylvanian vampire, and Moon couldn’t tell’m apart. All Moon knew, he was makin’ more cash since hookin’ up with the foreign muthuhfucka chillin’ behind him than any time in his life.
Still, Moon didn’t like him back there, money or not. Didn’t want that creepy, glassy-eyed muthuhfucka behind him. All these months, this was the first time the fucka had come with them. Moon didn’t like that, either.
Moon said, “You sure now, homeboy? That house right there?”
“Same as last time we passed, the one like a church.”
Moon clocked a nice house with a steep roof and these gargoyle-lookin’ things up on the eaves. The street was wide, and lined with houses all set back on big sloping lawns. These homes, you’d find lawyers, businesspeople, the occasional dilettante drug dealer.
Lil Tai twisted around to grin at the white boy.
“How much money we gettin’ this time?”
“Much money. Much.”
Jamal licked his lips, makin’ a smile wide as a piano.
Taste the money. Feel it right on my skin, all dirty and nasty.”
Moon said, “We gettin’ that shit.”
Moon killed the headlights and pulled into the drive, the four doors opening as soon as he cut the engine, the four of them stepping out. The Escalade’s interior lights had been removed, so nothing lit up. Only sound was Lil Tai’s eighteen-pound sledge, clunking the rocker panel as he got out.
They went directly to the front door, Jamal first, Moon going last, walking backward to make sure no one was watching. Jamal popped the entry lights, just reached up and broke’m with his fingers, pop, pop, pop. Moon pressed a folded towel over the dead bolt to dull the sound, and Lil Tai hit that shit with the hammer as hard as he could.
FRANK AND CINDY WERE CLEARING the table when a crash jolted their home as if a car had slammed through the front door. Joey was watching the Lakers in the family room and Little Frank had just gone up to his room. When Frank heard the crash, he believed his older son had knocked over the grandfather clock in the front entry. Little Frank had been known to climb the clock to reach the second-floor landing, and, even though it was anchored for earthquake safety, Frank had warned the boys it could fall.
Cindy startled at the noise, and Joey ran to his mother. Frank put down the plates, and was already hurrying toward the sound.
“Frankie! Son, are you all right—?”
They had only taken a step when four armed men rushed in, moving with the loose organization of men who had done this before.
Frank Meyer had faced high-speed, violent entries before, and had known how to react, but those situations had been in his former life. Now, eleven years and too many long days at a desk later, Frank was behind the play.
Four-man team. Gloves. Nine-millimeter pistols.
First man through had average height, espresso skin, and heavy braids to his shoulders. Frank knew he was the team leader because he acted like the leader, his eyes directing the play. A shorter man followed, angry and nervous, with a black bandanna capping his head, shoulder to shoulder with a bruiser showing tight cornrows and gold in his teeth, moving like he enjoyed being big. The fourth man was a step behind, moving more like an observer than part of the action. White, and big, almost as big as the bruiser, with a bowling-ball head, wide-set eyes, and thin sideburns that ran down his jaw like needles.
Two seconds, they fanned through the rooms. A second behind, Frank realized they were a home invasion crew. He felt the buzz-rush of excitement that had always sparked through him during an engagement, then remembered he was an out-of-shape businessman with a family to protect. Frank raised his hands, shuffling sideways to place himself between the men and his wife.
“Take what you want. Take it and leave. We won’t give you any trouble.”
The leader came directly to Frank, holding his pistol high and sideways like an idiot in a movie, bugging his eyes to show Frank he was fierce.
“Goddamn right, muthuhfucka. Where is it?”
Without waiting for an answer, he slapped Frank with the pistol. Cindy shouted, but Frank had been hit harder plenty of times. He waved toward his wife, trying to calm her.
“I’m okay. It’s okay, Cin, we’re gonna be fine.”
“Gonna be dead, you don’t do what I say!”
He dug the pistol hard into Frank’s cheek, but Frank was watching the others. The bruiser and the smaller man split apart, the bruiser charging to the French doors to check out the back, the little guy throwing open cabinets and doors, both of them shouting and cursing. Their movements were fast. Fast into the house. Fast into Frank’s face. Fast through the rooms. Fast to drive the play, and loud to increase the confusion. Only the man with the strange sideburns moved slowly, floating outside the perimeter as if with a private agenda.
Frank knew from experience it wasn’t enough to follow the play; you had to be ahead of the action to survive. Frank tried to buy himself time to catch up.
“My wallet’s in my office. I’ve got three or four hundred dollars—”
The leader hit Frank again.
“You take me a fool, muthuhfuckin’ wallet?”
“We use credit cards—”
Hit him again. Harder.
The man with the sideburns finally stepped out of the background, appearing at the table.
“See the plates? More people are here. We must look for the others.”
Frank was surprised by the accent. He thought it was Polish, but couldn’t be sure.
The man with the accent disappeared into the kitchen just as the bruiser charged out of the family room to Cindy and Joey. He held his pistol to Cindy’s temple, shouting at Frank in his rage.
“You want this bitch dead? You want me to put this pipe right in her mouth? You want her to suck on this?”
The leader slapped Frank again.
“You think he don’t mean it?”
The bruiser suddenly backhanded Cindy with his pistol, splashing a red streamer from her cheek. Joey screamed, and Frank Meyer suddenly knew what to do.
The man with Frank was watching the action when Frank grabbed his gun hand, rolled his wrist to lock the man’s arm, and jointed his elbow. Frank had been out of the life for years, but the moves were burned into his muscle memory from a thousand hours of training. He had to neutralize his captor, strip the weapon as he levered the man down, recover with the pistol in a combat grip, put two into the big man who had Cindy, then turn, acquire, and double-tap whoever was in his field of fire. Frank Meyer had gone automatic. The moves flowed out ahead of the play exactly as he had trained for them, and, back in the day, he could have completed the sequence in less than a second. But Frank was still fumbling with the pistol when three bullets slammed into him, the last shot hitting the heavy vertebra in Frank’s lower back, putting him down.
Frank opened his mouth, but only a hiss escaped. Cindy and Joey screamed, and Frank fought to rise with the fierce will of the warrior he had been, but will was not enough.
The man with the accent said, “I hear someone. In the back.”
A shadow moved past, but Frank couldn’t see.
The leader appeared overhead, cradling his broken arm. Huge shimmering tears dripped from his eyes and fell in slow motion like rain from his braids.
He said, “I’m gonna get me that money.”
He turned away toward Cindy.
Frank’s world grew dark, and all he had left were feelings of failure and shame. He knew he was dying, exactly the way he had always thought he would die, only not here, and not now. All of that should have been behind him.
He tried to reach for his wife, but could not.
AT TEN-FOURTEEN THE FOLLOWING MORNING, approximately fifteen hours after the murders, helicopters were dark stars over the Meyer house when LAPD Detective-Sergeant Jack Terrio threaded his way through the tangle of marked and unmarked police vehicles, SID wagons, and vans from the Medical Examiner’s office. He phoned his task force partner, Louis Deets, as he approached the house. Deets had been at the scene for an hour.
“Meet you at the front door. You gotta see this.”
“Hang on—any word on the wit?”
A slim possibility existed for a witness—an Anglo female had been found alive by the first responders and identified as the Meyers’ nanny.
Deets said, “Not so hot. They brought her over to the Medical Center, but she’s circling the drain. In the face, Jackie. One in the face, one in the chest.”
“Hold a good thought. We need a break.”
“Maybe we got one. You gotta see.”
Terrio snapped his phone closed, annoyed with Deets and with the dead-end case. A home invasion crew had been hitting upscale homes in West L.A. and the Encino hills for the past three months, and this was likely their seventh score. All of the robberies had taken place between the dinner hour and eleven P.M. Two of the homes had been unoccupied at the time of entry, but, as with the Meyer home, the other four homes had been occupied. A litter of nine-millimeter cartridge casings and bodies had been left behind, but nothing else—no prints, DNA, video, or witnesses. Until now, and she was going to die.
When Terrio reached the plastic screen that had been erected to block the front door from prying cameras, he waited for Deets. Across the street, he recognized two squats from the Chief’s office, huddled up with a woman who looked like a Fed. The squats saw him looking, and turned away.
Terrio thought, “Crap. Now what?”
She was maybe five six, and sturdy with that gymed-out carriage Feds have when they’re trying to move up the food chain to Washington. Navy blazer over outlet-store jeans. Wraparound shades. A little slit mouth that probably hadn’t smiled in a month. Deets came up behind him.
“You gotta see this.”
Terrio nodded toward the woman.
“Who’s that with the squats?”
Deets squinted at the woman, then shook his head.
“I’ve been inside. It’s a mess in there, man, but you gotta see. C’mon, put on your booties—”
They were required to wear paper booties at the scene so as not to contaminate the evidence.
Deets ducked behind the screen without waiting, so Terrio hurried to catch up, steeling himself for what he was about to see. Even after eighteen years on the job and hundreds of murder cases, the sight of blood and rent human flesh left him queasy. Embarrassed by what he considered a lack of professionalism, Terrio stared at Deets’s back as he followed him past the criminalists and West L.A. Homicide detectives who currently filled the house, not wanting to see the blood or the gore until absolutely necessary.
They reached a large, open dining area where a coroner investigator was photographing the crumpled form of an adult white male.
Deets said, “Okay we touch the body?”
“Sure. I’m good.”
“Can I have one of those wet-wipes?”
The CI gave Deets a wet-wipe, then stepped to the side, giving them room.
The male victim’s shirt had been cut away so the CI could work on the body. Deets pulled on a pair of latex gloves, then glanced at Terrio. The body was lying in an irregular pool of blood almost six feet across.
“Be careful of the blood.”
“I can see fine from here. I’m not stepping in that mess.”
Deets lifted the man’s arm, cleaned a smear of blood off the shoulder with the wet-wipe, then held the arm for Terrio to see.
“What do you think? Look familiar?”
Lividity had mottled the skin with purple and black bruising, but Terrio could still make out the tattoo. He felt a low dread of recognition.
“I’ve seen this before.”
“Yeah. That’s what I thought.”
“Does he have one on the other arm, too?”
“One on each side. Matching.”
Deets lowered the arm, then stepped away from the body. He peeled off the latex gloves.
“Only one guy I know of has tats like this. He used to be a cop here. LAPD.”
A blocky, bright red arrow had been inked onto the outside of Frank Meyer’s shoulder. It pointed forward.
Terrio’s head was racing.
“This is good, Lou. This gives us a direction. We just gotta figure out what to do about him.”
The woman’s voice cut through behind them.
Terrio turned, and there she was, the woman and the two squats. Wraparounds hiding her eyes. Mouth so tight she looked like she had steel teeth.
The woman stepped forward, and didn’t seem to care if she stepped in the blood or not.
“I asked a question, Sergeant. Do about who?”
Terrio glanced at the arrow again, then gave her the answer.
Posted January 16, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Once again Robert Crais brings Joe Pike to the forefront with "The First Rule". If you have ever read any of the Elvis Cole books, you have only gotten a glimpse of Pike. Crais has expanded what we know of him with "The Watchman" and even more now with "The First Rule". If you hurt someone that Pike cares about, you better make your last wishes known. One of the great things about Crais' characters is that they are not perfect but they do strive to be better.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 16, 2010
It is a good day when either a new Jack Reacher novel (by Lee Child} or, in this case, a new novel by Robert Crais hits the bookstores (brick or online). THE FIRST RULE by Robert Crais (2010) features Joe Pike (thus a Joe Pike novel) [again] and Crais delivers the goods with Pike taking on the super bad guys with his kick-ass approach and sphinx-like demeanor. Of course, Pike has friends on standby with Elvis Cole (greatest detective in the world) to go on the "hunt" to take on the evil of ex-Soviet Union criminal gangs operating in a world of guns, drugs, slavery, and triple-crosses of deceit. When the sit-to-fan ratio is high, you need Joe Pike on your side - and better yet, you will want this book at your side, if you seek the best of crime thrillers.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2009
In Westwood, California, garment importer from Asia and Africa Frank Meyer lives the good American life as he reinvented himself eleven years ago once he met his beloved Cindy. Four men invade their home killing Frank, Cindy and their sons; the nanny survived but is in a coma. LAPD finds tattoos on Frank's arms that police detective Deets has seen before on private investigator Joe Pike.
The cops assume Frank was dirty due to six previous invasions of homes belonging to criminals. Joe knows better even if he had not seen the man in a decade ever since Frank walked when his mercenary contract expired; he knows because Frank loved Cindy and would never go dirty because of her. Deciding he owes it to Frank to clear his name and to bring down his assassins, Joe and his partner Elvis Cole investigate starting with the nanny who they learn has ties to an Eastern Europe organized mob.
As the cops warn him to stay out of it, Frank and Joe, not trusting the law to look beyond their nose, investigate by digging deep into the activities of local gangsters. They begin to understand a different ethics than their own as The First Rule of the mob is the only way to leave is in a coffin. Fans will fully appreciate the latest Pike inquiry (see The Watchman) that has the mob, the gangs, and the cops in a rare unity (using differing means) to persuade Frank and Joe to back off.
3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2010
Joe Pike is a wonderful character; tough, gritty, and yet, likeable. This book does not disappoint in terms of either suspense or action.
Two things, however, do disappoint. The plot involves organized crime involving Serbian nationals, and the chapters are filled with frequent and annoying references concerning characters speaking "Serbian." The problem is, there is no language known as "serbian." The language of Serbia is "Serbo-Croatian, sometimes referred to as Serbo-Croat." That is the language spoken in most of the former Yugoslavia.
The second disappointment concerns constant references to BMW motorcars as "Beemers." Wrong. The BMW motorcar is a "Bimmer." It is BMW motorcycles that are referred to as "Beamers."
Little things, perhaps, but details do matter.
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2014
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Posted August 22, 2013
Third or fourth? book I have read by Robert Crais. I love Joe Pike, the tough guy, who cops the extreme attitude of untouchable, yet continues to prove that he is truly a good guy and one you'd want on your side!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 8, 2013
Posted May 31, 2013
Have discovered a new author.....In the same catagory as Patterson, kept me turning the pages. Then I had to get Suspect...even beter...sdo now an addictd to getting all of his books...currently reading Chasing Darkness.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2012
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Posted August 24, 2011
The story line took Joe Pike the mercenary doing his normal follow the rules or you will be hurt. This story also includes a softer side of Joe. I liked the story and enoyed the plot. Onto series #3Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2011
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Posted February 15, 2011
Funny, dramtic, and of course action packed. This book is just another great addition to the amazing Joe Pike series. Time to start number 3!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 29, 2010
Crais has problems with making his protagonist Joe Pike into an infallible, unkillable God figure. The Elvis Cole books feature Pike as a shadowy, enigmatic sidekick. When he carries the ball, plausibility goes out the window. LA Requiem, Crais' best novel, put a human face on Pike, but he has moved away from that here. Unlike his heroes Chandler and Macdonald, Crais has never crossed the line from thriller writer to major novelist. I can only give this book 2 1/2 stars.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.