The Watchman (Joe Pike Series #1)

Overview

Larkin Conner Barkley lives like the City of Angels is hers for the taking. Young and staggeringly rich, she speeds through the city during its loneliest hours, blowing through red after red in her Aston Martin as if running for her life. Until out of nowhere a car appears, and with it the metal-on-metal explosion of a terrible accident. Dazed, Larkin attempts to help the other victims. And finds herself the sole witness in a secret federal investigation.

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Overview

Larkin Conner Barkley lives like the City of Angels is hers for the taking. Young and staggeringly rich, she speeds through the city during its loneliest hours, blowing through red after red in her Aston Martin as if running for her life. Until out of nowhere a car appears, and with it the metal-on-metal explosion of a terrible accident. Dazed, Larkin attempts to help the other victims. And finds herself the sole witness in a secret federal investigation.

For maybe the first time in her life, Larkin wants to do the right thing. But by agreeing to cooperate with the authorities, she becomes the target for a relentless team of killers. And when the U.S. Marshals and the finest security money can buy can’t protect her, Larkin’s wealthy family turns to the one man money can’t buy—Joe Pike.

Pike lives a world away from the palaces of Beverly Hills. He’s an ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary who owes a bad man a favor, and that favor is to keep Larkin alive. The one upside of the job is reuniting with Bud Flynn, Pike’s LAPD training officer, and a man Pike reveres as a father. The downside is Larkin Barkley, who is the uncontrollable cover girl for self-destruction—and as deeply alone as Pike.

Pike commits himself to protecting the girl, but when they immediately come under fire, he realizes someone is selling them out. In defiance of Bud and the authorities, Pike drops off the grid with the girl and follows his own rules of survival: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters. With the help of private investigator Elvis Cole, Pike uncovers a web of lies and betrayals, and the stunning revelation that even the cops are not who they seem. As the body count rises, Pike’s biggest threat might come from the girl herself, a lost soul in the City of Angels, determined to destroy herself unless Joe Pike can teach her the value of life…and love.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
After his stand-alone Two-Minute Rule triumph, Robert Crais returns with a barnburner featuring his two most popular characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. This time Pike is at the center of the action as he throws himself into the dangerous job of protecting the life of a spoiled, "rich bitch" federal witness. It just takes an ambush or two for the enigmatic cop to realize that somebody inside is leaking information that could get him and his contrarian companion killed. To outwit the plotters, he takes matters into his own hands by "kidnapping" the debutante songbird. High-octane excitement.
Marilyn Stasio
Foreign terrorists may lend an exotic touch to American crime fiction, but our preferred villains are still real estate developers and agents of the federal government. Not one to play favorites, Robert Crais tosses them all in the mix in The Watchman, a testosterone-fueled thriller expressly engineered for Joe Pike, the enigmatic sidekick of Crais’s so-cool Los Angeles private eye, Elvis Cole. Pike is the kind of solitary, scary guy who can do push-ups on his thumbs and attract a pack of coyotes when he goes out for a predawn run, and Crais writes in a taut, muscular style tailored to the lethal moves of this romantic mercenary soldier.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

As the subtitle suggests, Joe Pike, the intriguing, enigmatic partner of L.A. PI Elvis Cole, takes center stage in this intense thriller from bestseller Crais (The Two Minute Rule). To pay back an old debt, Pike is coerced into protecting Larkin Barkley, a hard-partying young heiress whose life is in danger after a "wrong place wrong time" encounter that quickly escalates and spins out of control. The enemy is shadowy, violent and relentless—but the fierce, focused Pike, one of the strongest characters in modern crime fiction, is equal to the challenge. The breathless pace and rich styling are sure to appeal to readers of hard-boiled fiction in general, but since up to now Pike has mostly remained in the background, some fans of the Elvis Cole series (The Forgotten Man, etc.) may find the explicit picture that emerges of Pike at odds with the image they've constructed for themselves. (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
If Bruce Willis's face keeps coming to mind whenever former bank robber Max Holman speaks in this sharp and touching audio version of Crais's latest bestseller, it's not surprising. Willis starred in the movie of Crais's Hostage and would be perfect as Holman. But Graybill does a good job of making Max more than just an imitation. His Holman quickly comes to life as a bruised, repentant man seeking revenge against those who shot and killed his 23-year-old LAPD rookie son, just a day before Holman's release from prison. Graybill is also skilled at making the lesser roles real and different: the cops who worked with his son cover a range of voices and attitudes, as do the petty criminals, gang members and assorted villains Max encounters. Graybill is especially good at catching the combination of weariness, frustration and basic decency of Katherine Pollard, the former FBI agent who arrested Holman 10 years ago and is now an unemployed single mother and the only person who will help him search for his son's killers. It's one of the author's best books, and audio listeners should quickly be caught up in its subtle, ironic excitement. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 9). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Crais (The Two-Minute Rule) writes a number of fine detective stories featuring wisecracking P.I. Elvis Cole, who is assisted at times by partner Joe Pike. Now it's Pike's turn, with Cole on hand to help. An ex-cop and ex-mercenary, Pike is a good-guy version of Parker, Richard Stark's no-nonsense crook. In the novel, a young heiress goes joyriding in the middle of the night and rear-ends a Mercedes. When she stops to help, one passenger flees on foot, while the other takes off in the car. It turns out that one of them is a wanted man, and the heiress is the only witness to his continued presence in the United States. Attempts on her life follow, and Pike is called in to protect her. Soon, the two must flee, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind. Puzzles pile on top of puzzles--e.g., FBI agents tell Joe a story that doesn't hold up, and guns disappear from a crime lab. The twists and turns in this first-rate thriller are many and fast, and the tension never slackens. We should see more of Pike; he's too interesting a character to be playing second banana all the time. Recommended.
—David Keymer

Library Journal
Crais (The Two-Minute Rule) writes a number of fine detective stories featuring wisecracking P.I. Elvis Cole, who is assisted at times by partner Joe Pike. Now it's Pike's turn, with Cole on hand to help. An ex-cop and ex-mercenary, Pike is a good-guy version of Parker, Richard Stark's no-nonsense crook. In the novel, a young heiress goes joyriding in the middle of the night and rear-ends a Mercedes. When she stops to help, one passenger flees on foot, while the other takes off in the car. It turns out that one of them is a wanted man, and the heiress is the only witness to his continued presence in the United States. Attempts on her life follow, and Pike is called in to protect her. Soon, the two must flee, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind. Puzzles pile on top of puzzles-e.g., FBI agents tell Joe a story that doesn't hold up, and guns disappear from a crime lab. The twists and turns in this first-rate thriller are many and fast, and the tension never slackens. We should see more of Pike; he's too interesting a character to be playing second banana all the time. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A bank robber turns detective to avenge the son who's always hated him, in this turbocharged suspenser from Crais (The Forgotten Man, 2005, etc.). The day Max Holman finally jumps through the last hoop and goes free after ten years as a guest of the state, he learns that his son Richard has been gunned down, along with three LAPD colleagues. The four cops were executed while drinking under the Fourth Street bridge, he's told; the shooter was Warren Juarez, who had a grudge against the sergeant who'd arrested his brother, and the case is closed when Juarez obligingly commits suicide. Max doesn't buy a word of it. He doesn't think Juarez killed three cops more than he needed to, and he doesn't think anybody could've gotten the drop on the four officers unless they knew and trusted him. With no family or friends to turn to, Max calls Katherine Pollard, the FBI agent who considered him a hero of sorts when she sent him up ten years ago, not knowing she's left the Agency and feels as much an outsider as he does. For such an awkward pair-he's determined to prove that Richie wasn't the dirty cop he seemed to be; she feels she owes him something even though she's warned by everyone around her just how toxic their association is-they click surprisingly well as a team, and soon they've learned enough about a missing $15 million jackpot to get themselves into serious trouble. Dead cops, dirty cops, an unlikely romance between a law enforcement officer and a tarnished character in the City of Angels-it all sounds like L.A. Confidential, and you can be sure that Crais is aiming for the same big-ticket movie sale with a fast-moving case that reads like a 300-page treatment. First printing of 200,000
From the Publisher
"Taut, Muscular...A Testosterone-Fueled Thriller." — The New York Times

"Robert Crais Elevates Crime Fiction." — Sun-Sentinel (FL)

"Nail-Biting Suspense" — Booklist

"A True Achievement." — Chicago Sun Times

"A taut, high-action thriller." -USA Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469265896
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 12/1/2012
  • Series: Joe Pike Series , #1
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Crais is the 2006 recipient of the Ross Macdonald Literary Award. He is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers, including The Two Minute Rule, The Forgotten Man, and L.A. Requiem.

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Read an Excerpt

The Two Minute Rule


By Robert Crais

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2006 Robert Crais
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743281616

Chapter One

"You're not too old. Forty-six isn't old, these days. You got a world of time to make a life for yourself."

Holman didn't answer. He was trying to decide how best to pack. Everything he owned was spread out on the bed, all neatly folded: four white T-shirts, three Hanes briefs, four pairs of white socks, two short-sleeved shirts (one beige, one plaid), one pair of khaki pants, plus the clothes he had been wearing when he was arrested for bank robbery ten years, three months, and four days ago.

"Max, you listening?"

"I gotta get this stuff packed. Lemme ask you something -- you think I should keep my old stuff, from before? I don't know as I'll ever get into those pants."

Wally Figg, who ran the Community Correctional Center, which was kind of a halfway house for federal prisoners, stepped forward to eye the pants. He picked them up and held them next to Holman. The cream-colored slacks still bore scuff marks from when the police had wrestled Holman to the floor in the First United California Bank ten years plus three months ago. Wally admired the material.

"That's a nice cut, man. What is it, Italian?"

"Armani."

Wally nodded, impressed.

"I'd keep'm, I was you. Be a shame to lose something this nice."

"I got four inches more in the waist now than back then."

In the day, Holman had lived large. He stole cars, hijacked trucks, and robbed banks. Fat with fast cash, he hoovered up crystal meth for breakfast and Maker's Mark for lunch, so jittery from dope and hung over from booze he rarely bothered to eat. He had gained weight in prison.

Wally refolded the pants.

"Was me, I'd keep'm. You'll get yourself in shape again. Give yourself something to shoot for, gettin' back in these pants."

Holman tossed them to Wally. Wally was smaller.

"Better to leave the past behind."

Wally admired the slacks, then looked sadly at Holman.

"You know I can't. We can't accept anything from the residents. I'll pass'm along to one of the other guys, you want. Or give'm to Goodwill."

"Whatever."

"You got a preference, who I should give'm to?"

"No, whoever."

"Okay. Sure."

Holman went back to staring at his clothes. His suitcase was an Albertsons grocery bag. Technically, Max Holman was still incarcerated, but in another hour he would be a free man. You finish a federal stretch, they don't just cross off the last X and cut you loose; being released from federal custody happened in stages. They started you off with six months in an Intensive Confinement Center where you got field trips into the outside world, behavioral counseling, additional drug counseling if you needed it, that kind of thing, after which you graduated to a Community Correctional Center where they let you live and work in a community with real live civilians. In the final stages of his release program, Holman had spent the past three months at the CCC in Venice, California, a beach community sandwiched between Santa Monica and Marina del Rey, preparing himself for his release. As of today, Holman would be released from full-time federal custody into what was known as supervised release -- he would be a free man for the first time in ten years.

Wally said, "Well, okay, I'm gonna go get the papers together. I'm proud of you, Max. This is a big day. I'm really happy for you."

Holman layered his clothes in the bag. With the help of his Bureau of Prisons release supervisor, Gail Manelli, he had secured a room in a resident motel and a job; the room would cost sixty dollars a week, the job would pay a hundred seventy-two fifty after taxes. A big day.

Wally clapped him on the back.

"I'll be in the office whenever you're ready to go. Hey, you know what I did, kind of a going-away present?"

Holman glanced at him.

"What?"

Wally slipped a business card from his pocket and gave it to Holman. The card showed a picture of an antique timepiece. Salvadore Jimenez, repairs, fine watches bought and sold, Culver City, California. Wally explained as Holman read the card.

"My wife's cousin has this little place. He fixes watches. I figured maybe you havin' a job and all, you'd want to get your old man's watch fixed. You want to see Sally, you lemme know, I'll make sure he gives you a price."

Holman slipped the card into his pocket. He wore a cheap Timex with an expandable band that hadn't worked in twenty years. In the day, Holman had worn an eighteen-thousand-dollar Patek Philippe he stole from a car fence named Oscar Reyes. Reyes had tried to short him on a stolen Carrera, so Holman had choked the sonofabitch until he passed out. But that was then. Now, Holman wore the Timex even though its hands were frozen. The Timex had belonged to his father.

"Thanks, Wally, thanks a lot. I was going to do that."

"A watch that don't keep time ain't much good to you."

"I have something in mind for it, so this will help."

"You let me know. I'll make sure he gives you a price."

"Sure. Thanks. Let me get packed up here, okay?"

Wally left as Holman returned to his packing. He had the clothes, three hundred twelve dollars that he had earned during his incarceration, and his father's watch. He did not have a car or a driver's license or friends or family to pick him up upon his release. Wally was going to give him a ride to his motel. After that, Holman would be on his own with the Los Angeles public transportation system and a watch that didn't work.

Holman went to his bureau for the picture of his son. Richie's picture was the first thing he had put in the room here at the CCC, and it would be the last thing he packed when he left. It showed his son at the age of eight, a gap-toothed kid with a buzz cut, dark skin, and serious eyes; his child's body already thickening with Holman's neck and shoulders. The last time Holman actually saw the boy was his son's twelfth birthday, Holman flush with cash from flipping two stolen Corvettes in San Diego, showing up blind drunk a day too late, the boy's mother, Donna, taking the two thousand he offered too little too late by way of the child support he never paid and on which he was always behind. Donna had sent him the old picture during his second year of incarceration, a guilty spasm because she wouldn't bring the boy to visit Holman in prison, wouldn't let the boy speak to Holman on the phone, and wouldn't pass on Holman's letters, such as they were, however few and far between, keeping the boy out of Holman's life. Holman no longer blamed her for that. She had done all right by the boy with no help from him. His son had made something of himself, and Holman was goddamned proud of that.

Holman placed the picture flat into the bag, then covered it with the remaining clothes to keep it safe. He glanced around the room. It didn't look so very different than it had an hour ago before he started.

He said, "Well, I guess that's it."

He told himself to leave, but didn't. He sat on the side of the bed instead. It was a big day, but the weight of it left him feeling heavy. He was going to get settled in his new room, check in with his release supervisor, then try to find Donna. It had been two years since her last note, not that she had ever written all that much anyway, but the five letters he had written to her since had all been returned, no longer at this address. Holman figured she had gotten married, and the new guy probably didn't want her convicted-felon boyfriend messing in their life. Holman didn't blame her for that, either. They had never married, but they did have the boy together and that had to be worth something even if she hated him. Holman wanted to apologize and let her know he had changed. If she had a new life, he wanted to wish her well with it, then get on with his. Eight or nine years ago when he thought about this day he saw himself running out the goddamned door, but now he just sat on the bed. Holman was still sitting when Wally came back.

"Max?"

Wally stood in the door like he was scared to come in. His face was pale and he kept wetting his lips.

Holman said, "What's wrong? Wally, you having a heart attack, what?"

Wally closed the door. He glanced at a little notepad like something was on it he didn't have right. He was visibly shaken.

"Wally, what?"

"You have a son, right? Richie?"

"Yeah, that's right."

"What's his full name?"

"Richard Dale Holman."

Holman stood. He didn't like the way Wally was fidgeting and licking his lips.

"You know I have a boy. You've seen his picture."

"He's a kid."

"He'd be twenty-three now. He's twenty-three. Why you want to know about this?"

"Max, listen, is he a police officer? Here in L.A.?"

"That's right."

Wally came over and touched Holman's arm with fingers as light as a breath.

"It's bad, Max. I have some bad news now and I want you to get ready for it."

Wally searched Holman's eyes as if he wanted a sign, so Holman nodded.

"Okay, Wally. What?"

"He was killed last night. I'm sorry, man. I'm really, really sorry."

Holman heard the words; he saw the pain in Wally's eyes and felt the concern in Wally's touch, but Wally and the room and the world left Holman behind like one car pulling away from another on a flat desert highway, Holman hitting the brakes, Wally hitting the gas, Holman watching the world race away.

Then he caught up and fought down an empty, terrible ache.

"What happened?"

"I don't know, Max. There was a call from the Bureau of Prisons when I went for your papers. They didn't have much to say. They wasn't even sure it was you or if you were still here."

Holman sat down again and this time Wally sat beside him. Holman had wanted to look up his son after he spoke with Donna. That last time he saw the boy, just two months before Holman was pinched in the bank gig, the boy had told him to fuck off, running alongside the car as Holman drove away, eyes wet and bulging, screaming that Holman was a loser, screaming fuck off, you loser. Holman still dreamed about it. Now here they were and Holman was left with the empty sense that everything he had been moving to for the past ten years had come to a drifting stop like a ship that had lost its way.

Wally said, "You want to cry, it's okay."

Holman didn't cry. He wanted to know who did it.

* * *

Dear Max,

I am writing because I want you to know that Richard has made something of himself despite your bad blood. Richard has joined the police department. This past Sunday he graduated at the police academy by Dodger stadium and it was really something. The mayor spoke and helicopters flew so low. Richard is now a police officer. He is strong and good and not like you. I am so proud of him. He looked so handsome. I think this is his way of proving there is no truth to that old saying "like father like son."

Donna

* * *

This was the last letter Holman received, back when he was still at Lompoc. Holman remembered getting to the part where she wrote there was no truth about being like father like son, and what he felt when he read those words wasn't embarrassment or shame; he felt relief. He remembered thinking, thank God, thank God.

He wrote back, but the letters were returned. He wrote to his son care of the Los Angeles Police Department, just a short note to congratulate the boy, but never received an answer. He didn't know if Richie received the letter or not. He didn't want to force himself on the boy. He had not written again.

Copyright ©2006 by Robert Crais

Continues...


Excerpted from The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais Copyright © 2006 by Robert Crais. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Introduction

The Two Minute Rule

By Robert Crais

Introduction

Max Holman was convicted of armed robbery and served his ten-year sentence. He's clean and sober, his debt to society has been paid. The day he gets out of the pen, the only thing on his mind is reconciliation with his estranged son, who is, ironically, a cop. Then the devastating news: his son and three other uniformed cops were gunned down in cold blood in the LA warehouse district the night before Holman's release. The evidence points to an area gangbanger, Warren Juarez, who was once arrested by two of the officers.

Max's one rule was no violence. Throughout his career as a bank robber, during nine years in the pen, he never crossed that line. But now, shut out from any information on the case (the LAPD isn't interested in keeping ex-cons informed), and the only thing worth living for taken from him, Max decides there is only one thing to do: Avenge his son's death. Kill Juarez.

So begins The Two Minute Rule. As Holman launches his renegade investigation, he realizes there's no way Juarez could have killed his son -- he was across the city, with a valid alibi. Why, then, is the LAPD rushing to arrest? As Max develops his own theories, he unearths evidence of his son's corruption -- devastating news that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. It is this that finally moves him to reach out to the woman who put him behind bars -- Katherine Pollard. Soon they find themselves working together to root out the truth, a truth that puts both of their lives very much at risk.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some of the obstacles that Holman faces as an ex-convict? How does he get aroundthem in his search for Richie's killer? Is it fair that he is treated differently because of his criminal history?

2. When Pollard agrees to help Holman, she feels "as if she had been paroled" (113). What sort of "prison" has Pollard been released from? Discuss the reasons for her new feelings of freedom.

3. Holman always wears "his father's watch with its frozen hands" (180). What is the significance of the broken watch? How does the watch's meaning change over the course of the novel?

4. Holman's brief visit to Union Station and Olvera Street stirs up memories of his parents. What do we learn about Holman's mother and father? Based on what we learn on page 185, what kind of childhood do you think Holman had? How do you think Holman's relationship to his parents affects his identity as a father?

5. What happened ten years ago, when Holman "violated the two minute rule by three minutes and forty-six seconds" (219)? What did you learn about Holman's character from the circumstances of his last bank robbery? How does Holman's robbery compare to the Marchenko and Parsons scene in the prologue? Why does the author wait until Chapter 34 to reveal the full story of Holman's arrest?

6. Holman is afraid that "You just couldn't beat bad blood. 'Like son, like father'" (252). What evidence is there that Richie's fate is determined by genes rather than his environment?

7. Revisit Holman's daring escape from Vukovich, Fuentes, and Random, starting on page 257. What makes this scene so thrilling? How does the author create tension in his description of Holman's escape?

8. Who in this book has "gold fever" (301) -- a desire for money that has made him or her irrational? Discuss this obsession as opposed to Holman's obsessions. Can Holman also be accused of having gold fever? Do you think that Holman's determined search for Richie's killer resembles a "fever?"

9. Holman and Pollard have different approaches to finding Richie's killer. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each character's style of investigation? How do their approaches complement each other? Do you think their success in solving the case bodes well for them romantically?

10. Holman is haunted by a memory of "Richie running alongside his car, red-faced and crying, calling him a loser" (317). Does Holman come to terms with his role in Richie's life, or do you think this image will continue to haunt him? Has Holman redeemed himself as a father by solving Richie's murder? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club:

1. Do you think two minutes is a short period of time? Test the "two minute rule" with your book club! Set a stopwatch for two minutes. Think of all the things you would buy if you had sixteen million dollars, and write down as many as you can in two minutes. Whoever makes the longest list in two minutes gets to pick the next book club selection!

2. Use a detailed map of Los Angeles to mark some of the places featured in The Two Minute Rule: the Los Angeles River Channel, the Hollywood sign, Union Station, Olvera Street, and the Federal Building. You can map these sites online at maps.google.com.

3. Does your town or state have a landmark like the Hollywood sign? Do some research on your favorite area attraction, or ask a local historian to speak about it at your book club meeting.

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