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The Watchman (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Series #11)

The Watchman (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Series #11)

3.6 341
by Robert Crais

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A wild-living young heiress slams into trouble in the L.A. night—the kind of trouble even her money can’t shut down. After her Aston Martin collides with a mysterious car, Larkin Conner Barkley attempts to help the accident victims—and becomes the sole witness in a federal investigation. Whisking her out of her Beverly Hills world is Joe


A wild-living young heiress slams into trouble in the L.A. night—the kind of trouble even her money can’t shut down. After her Aston Martin collides with a mysterious car, Larkin Conner Barkley attempts to help the accident victims—and becomes the sole witness in a federal investigation. Whisking her out of her Beverly Hills world is Joe Pike—ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary—hired to shield Larkin from a relentless team of killers. But when a chain of lies and betrayals tightens around them, Pike drops off the grid and follows his own rules for survival: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters. . . .

Editorial Reviews

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

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.
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

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

Product Details

Pocket Books
Publication date:
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Series , #11
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The girl was moody getting out of the car, making a sour face to let him know she hated the shabby house and sun-scorched street smelling of chili and episote. To him, this anonymous house would serve. He searched the surrounding houses for threats as he waited for her, clearing the area the way another man might clear his throat. He felt obvious wearing the long-sleeved shirt. The Los Angeles sun was too hot for the sleeves, but he had little choice. He moved carefully to hide what was under the shirt.

She said, "People who live in houses like this have deformed children. I can't stay here."

"Lower your voice."

"I haven't eaten all day. I didn't eat yesterday and now this smell is making me feel strange."

"We'll eat when we're safe."

The house opened as the girl joined him, and the woman Bud told him to expect appeared: a squat woman with large white teeth and friendly eyes named Imelda Arcano. Mrs. Arcano managed several apartment houses and single-family rentals in Eagle Rock, and Bud's office had dealt with her before. He hoped she wouldn't notice the four neat holes that had been punched into their fender the night before.

He turned his back to the house to speak with the girl.

"The attitude makes you memorable. Lose it. You want to be invisible."

"Why don't I wait in the car?"

Leaving her was unthinkable.

"Let me handle her."

The girl laughed.

"That would be you all over it. I want to see that, you handling her. I want to see you charm her."

He took the girl's arm and headed toward the house. To her credit, the girl fell in beside him without making a scene, slouching to change her posture the way he had shown her. Even with her wearing the oversize sunglasses and Dodgers cap, he wanted her inside and out of sight as quickly as possible.

Mrs. Arcano smiled wider as they reached the front door, welcoming them.

"Mr. Johnson?"


"It's so hot today, isn't it? It's cool inside. The air conditioner works very well. I'm Imelda Arcano."

After the nightmare in Malibu, Bud's office had arranged the new house on the fly — dropped the cash and told Mrs. Arcano whatever she needed to hear, which probably wasn't much. This would be easy money, no questions part of the deal, low-profile tenants who would be gone in a week. Mrs. Arcano probably wouldn't even report the rental to the absentee owner; just pocket Bud's cash and call it a day. They were to meet Mrs. Arcano only so she could give them the keys.

Imelda Arcano beckoned them inside. The man hesitated long enough to glance back at the street. It was narrow and treeless, which was good. He could see well in both directions, though the small homes were set close together, which was bad. The narrow alleys would fill with shadows at dusk.

He wanted Mrs. Arcano out of the way as quickly as possible, but Mrs. Arcano latched onto the girl — one of those female-to-female things — and gave them the tour, leading them through the two tiny bedrooms and bath, the microscopic living room and kitchen, the grassless backyard. He glanced at the neighboring houses from each window, and out the back door at the rusty chain-link fence that separated this house from the one behind it. A beige and white pit bull was chained to an iron post in the neighboring yard. It lay with its chin on its paws, but it was not sleeping. He was pleased when he saw the pit bull.

The girl said, "Does the TV work?"

"Oh, yes, you have cable. You have lights, water, and gas — everything you need, but there is no telephone. You understand that? There really is no point in having the phone company create a line for such a short stay."

He had told the girl not to say anything, but now they were having a conversation. He cut it off.

"We have cell phones. You can hand over the keys and be on your way."

Mrs. Arcano stiffened, indicating she was offended.

"When will you be moving in?"

"Now. We'll take the keys."

Mrs. Arcano peeled two keys from her key ring, then left. For the first and only time that day he left the girl alone. He walked Mrs. Arcano to her car because he wanted to bring their gear into the house as quickly as possible. He wanted to call Bud. He wanted to find out what in hell happened the night before, but mostly he wanted to make sure the girl was safe.

He lingered at his car until Mrs. Arcano drove away, then looked up and down the street again — both ways, the houses, between the houses — and everything seemed fine. He brought his and the girl's duffels into the house, along with the bag they had grabbed at the Rite Aid.

The television was on, the girl hopping through the local stations for news. When he walked in, she laughed, then mimicked him, lowering and flattening her voice.

"'Hand over the keys and be on your way.' Oh, that charmed her. That certainly made you forgettable."

He turned off the television and held out the Rite Aid bag. She didn't take it, pissed about him turning off the set, so he let it drop to the floor.

"Do your hair. We'll get something to eat when you're finished."

"I wanted to see if we're on the news."

"Can't hear with the TV. We want to hear. Maybe later."

"I can turn off the sound."

"Do the hair."

He peeled off his shirt and tossed it onto the floor by the front door. If he went out again or someone came to the door he would pull it on. He was wearing a Kimber .45 semiautomatic pushed into the waist of his pants. He opened his duffel and took out a clip holster for the Kimber and a second gun, this one already holstered, a Colt Python .357 Magnum with the four-inch barrel. He clipped the Kimber onto the front of his pants in the cross-draw position and the Python on his right side. He hadn't chanced the holsters with Mrs. Arcano, but he hadn't wanted to take the chance of being without a gun, either.

He took a roll of duct tape from his bag and went to the kitchen.

Behind him, the girl said, "Asshole."

He made sure the back door was locked, then moved to the tiny back bedroom, locked the windows, and pulled the shades. This done, he tore off strips of duct tape and sealed the shades over the windows. He taped the bottoms and sides to the sills and jambs, all the way around each shade. If anyone managed to raise a window they would make noise tearing the shade from the wall and he would hear. When the shades were taped, he took out his Randall knife and made a three-inch vertical slit in each shade, just enough for him to finger open so he could cover the approaches to the house. He was cutting the shades when he heard her go into the bathroom. Finally cooperating. He knew she was scared, both of him and of what was happening, so he was surprised she had been trying as hard as she had. And pleased, thinking maybe they would stay alive a little while longer.

On his way to the front bedroom he passed the bath. She was in front of the mirror, cutting away her rich copper hair. She held the hair between her fingers, pulling it straight from her head to hack it away with the cheap Rite Aid scissors, leaving two inches of jagged spikes. Boxes of Clairol hair color, also fresh from the Rite Aid, lined the sink. She saw him in the mirror and glared.

"I hate this. I'm going to look so Melrose."

She had peeled down to her bra but left the door open. He guessed she wanted him to see. The five-hundred-dollar jeans rode low on her hips below a smiling dolphin jumping between the dimples on the small of her back. Her bra was light blue and sheer, and the perfect color against her olive skin. Looking at him, she played with her hair, which now stuck out in uneven spikes. She fluffed the spikes, shaped them, then considered them. The sink and floor were covered with the hair she had cut away.

She said, "What about white? I could go white. Would that make you happy?"

"Brown. Nondescript."

"I could go blue. Blue might be fun."

She turned to pose her body.

"Would you love it? Retropunk? So totally Melrose? Tell me you love it."

He continued on to the front bedroom without answering. She hadn't bought blue. She probably thought he hadn't been paying attention, but he paid attention to everything. She had bought blond, brown, and black. He locked and taped the front bedroom windows as he had done in the rest of the house, then returned to the bathroom. Now the water was running and she was leaning over the sink, wearing clear plastic gloves, massaging color into her hair. Black. He wondered how long it would take for the red to be hidden. He took out his cell phone, calling Bud Flynn as he watched.

He said, "We're in place. What happened last night?"

"I'm still trying to find out. I got no idea. Is the new house okay?"

"They had our location, Bud. I want to know how."

"I'm working on it. Is she okay?"

"I want to know how."

"Jesus, I'm working on it. Do you need anything?"

"I need to know how."

He closed the phone as she stood, water running down the trough of her spine to the dolphin until she wrapped her hair in a towel. Only then did she find him in the mirror again and smile.

"You're looking at my ass."

The pit bull barked.

He did not hesitate. He drew the Python and ran to the back bedroom.

She said, "Joe! Damnit."

In the back bedroom, he fingered open a slit in the shade as the girl hurried up behind him. The dog was on its feet, squinting at something he could not see.

She said, "What is it?"


The pit was trying to see something to their left, the flat top of its head furrowed and its nubby ears perked, no longer barking as it tested the air.

Pike watched through the slit, listening hard as the pit was listening.

The girl whispered, "What?"

The pit exploded with frenzied barking as it jumped against its chain.

Pike spoke fast over his shoulder even as the first man came around the end of the garage. It was happening again.

"Front of the house, but don't open the door. Go. Fast."

The towel fell from her head as he pushed her forward. He hooked their duffels over his shoulder, guiding her to the door. He checked the slit in the front window shade. A single man was walking up the drive as another moved across the yard toward the house. Pike didn't know how many more were outside or where they were, but he and the girl would not survive if he fought from within the house.

He cupped her face and forced her to see him. She had to see past her fear. Her eyes met his and he knew they were together.

"Watch me. Don't look at them or anything else. Watch me until I motion for you, then run for the car as fast as you can."

Once more, he did not hesitate.

He jerked open the door, set up fast on the man in the drive, and fired the Colt twice. He reset on the man coming across the yard. Pike doubled on each man's center of mass so quickly the four shots sounded like two — baboombaboom — then he ran to the center of the front yard. He saw no more men, so he waved out the girl.


She ran as hard as she could, he had to hand it to her. Pike fell in behind her, running backwards the way cornerbacks fade to cover a receiver, staying close to shield her body with his because the pit bull was still barking. More men were coming.

When Pike reached the bodies, he dropped to a knee and checked their pockets by touch. He was hoping for a wallet or some form of ID, but their pockets were empty.

A third man came around the corner of the house into the drive, saw Pike, then dove backwards. Pike fired his last two shots. Wood and stucco exploded from the edge of the house, but the man had made cover and the Python was dry. The third man popped back almost at once and fired three shots — bapbapbap — missing Pike, but hitting his Jeep like a ball-peen hammer. Pike didn't have time to holster the Python. He dropped it to jerk free the Kimber, pounded out two more shots and dropped the man at the edge of the house. Pike ran for the car. The girl had the driver's door open, but was just standing there.

Pike shouted, "Get in. In."

Another man appeared at the edge of the house, snapping out shots as fast as he could. Pike fired, but the man had already taken cover.


Pike pushed the girl across the console, jammed the key into the ignition and gunned his Jeep to the corner. He four-wheeled the turn, buried the accelerator, then glanced at the girl.

"You good? Are you hurt?"

She stared straight ahead, her eyes red and wet. She was crying again.

She said, "Those men are dead."

Pike placed his hand on her thigh.

"Larkin, look at me."

She clenched her eyes and kneaded her hands.

"Three men just died. Three more men."

He made his deep voice soft.

"I won't let anything happen to you. Do you hear me?"

She still didn't look.

"Do you believe me?"

She nodded.

Pike swerved through an intersection. He slowed only enough to avoid a collision, then accelerated onto the freeway.

They had been at the house in Eagle Rock for twenty-eight minutes. He had killed three more men, and now they were running. Again.

He was sorry he lost the Colt. It was a good gun. It had saved them last night in Malibu, but now it might get them killed.

Copyright © 2007 by Robert Crais

Meet the Author

Robert Crais is the author of many novels, including the New York Times bestsellers The Last Detective, Hostage, and L.A. Requiem. Learn more about his work at www.robertcrais.com.

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
June 20, 1953
Place of Birth:
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
B.S., Louisiana State University, 1976; Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University

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The Watchman (Joe Pike Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 341 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
B&N, please take this off your website, the free book doesn't exist. Better customer service PLEASE!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Same problem...won't download. I see it in my library, but .....
omwnn More than 1 year ago
I have tried several times to download this book, does not show up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elvis Cole sidekick, the enigmatic and dangerous Joe Pike, gets a high-powered starring role in "The Watchman," with The World's Greatest Detective playing backup this time. A reluctant Pike is convinced to repay an old debt by protecting Larkin Barkley, a spoiled young heiress (Paris Hilton anyone?) who rear-ended another car after a night of wild partying and is now on the run from both the mysterious accident victims, who suspiciously absconded from the accident scene, and the FBI, who seem to be hiding the real reason they want her in custody. Pike, with Cole's assistance, gets Larkin into hiding and goes after the bad guys - which may include members of the police force and the FBI - himself, setting a series of traps to find out what's going on. What I really liked about this book, besides the fast pace, colorful characters and vivid SoCal setting, all up to Crais' usual high standards, is the sensitive portrayal of the girl, who is far more than just a cliche of the pampered, spoiled celebs constantly overexposed in the tabloids. "The Watchman" is a welcome change of pace which tells us a lot about Joe Pike and the things in his past that made him who he is. Hopefully this is just the first in his own series. Also recommended: "A Stranger Lies There" - a hard-boiled thriller set in the desert around Palm Springs, it won the Malice Domestic Award for best first mystery. I actually discovered this book in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine review alongside "The Watchman." The review stated: "Santogrossi writes powerfully and movingly about a man who has paid for his mistakes only to find out that he's not through paying and never will be. An author to watch."
Glory McCarthy More than 1 year ago
Why so long to fix???
hockeynana More than 1 year ago
As of 5/28/2011 does not download. Shows up on my nook and "book" says download but it does not happen when download button is tapped.
sopranoIN More than 1 year ago
That's how I felt a few times in this great book with of course Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I rated the book high because I love these two characters but I don't like ridiculous spoiled brats. However, I can't say it isn't unrealistic for there to be such "bratty things" and it meant I got to see a little more behind those sunglasses of Joe Pike...even more than Elvis Cole has. Great read again.
Tweenthepages More than 1 year ago
This might have been a good first novel for some newbie author, but for Robert Crais, the mastermind behind the wonderful Elvis Cole novels, this was just not on par. As everyone else does, I LOVE Joe Pike, but I'm not sure that God meant for Joe Pike to utter so many words. In this book, he's as tough and sexy as usual, but some of the mystery is now missing. Plus, toward the end, I was starting to wonder if Crais had allowed Danielle Steel to finish his book for him. The good news is that the real Joe Pike comes back in "Chasing Darkness", faithful friend and partner to Elvis Cole, where he belongs.
darwindog96 More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I downloaded this Free-E-Bok but every time I tried to bring it up on my computer or my Nook it gave a message of Technical Difficulty try again later. I enjoy the books of this author but do not understand why this was offered free, shows up in my library, but does not allow me to download or open the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Robert Crais books and love the Elvis Cole re-occuring character the best. Elvis dialog is unexpected and unusual private eye behavior/clothes etc. Readers have been anxiously awaiting (since LA Requiem) more on Elvis's partner Joe Pike. Finally he has his own book and true to his character- Pike is AWESOME. We can't wait for another Elvis/Joe book. Crais has built two characters that readers really care what happens to them both on the job and in their personal lives. Maybe next one will provide more than just a peek into Joe's private life. If you enjoy reading thrillers with an extra punch- you will enjoy this Joe Pike Book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crais never disappoints.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really think this author is a great storyteller. However, I did not like the young female character. She was a selfish,ungrateful,and childish girl. I found myself hoping the bad guys WOULD get her! If her character would have been more likable, I would have given more stars! I am plaanning on reading the author's next book!
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My2CentsIL More than 1 year ago
A good, but not great, fast moving book with some interesting twists and turns. I've read a few other books by this author hop-scotching between early and later offerings. While this book doesn't make me want to seek out other Joe Pike books, I'd consider reading another.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed the fast pace Crais puts the reader thru. Great story and love Elvis Coles sense of humor ill probably read one of his stories next loved it!