Review: "The First Rule" by Robert Crais

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The First Rule by Robert CraisFrank 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.

I have a love/hate relationship with Robert Crais and the books he writes. I've always enjoyed the Elvis Cole stories, and the other standalone novels he's written, but with the Joe Pike novels he's reached a new high, or a new low, depending on perspective.

I have a habit of staying up late at night; if I got to bed at midnight, it'd be a very early night for me. An added complication is my tendency to pick up a book before bed, to either start one or finish one. And from personal experience, while I have been able to put down some of the Elvis Cole novels and get some sleep, I had been unable to do that with The Watchman, Crais' first Joe Pike novel.

So I made a careless mistake, sitting on my sofa at around 1:30am... I picked The First Rule off the daunting TBR stack in my living room and began reading, fully intending to read just the first couple chapters, then get in bed.

Somewhere around 6:30am, with the morning sky already bright, and my eyes burning from lack of sleep, I forced myself to stay awake and finish the book. I absolutely refused to put the book down with so few pages left, and pushed my way through to the end.

Thus, I love Robert Crais for giving us more Joe Pike, and I hate that I keep picking these books up at 1:00 in the morning, costing myself a good night's sleep. For me, though, The First Rule was worth it.

There's something appealing about a Joe Pike story; there's a greater sense of urgency and purpose when he's on the hunt than there is when Elvis Cole is picking through the pieces of one of his cases. For me, it's that unceasing tension and Pike's unfailing determination that draws me through the book. The actions he takes to unravel the secrets and complete his tasks may be ruthless and imbued with a darkness that he's unafraid to fully embrace, but they serve a purpose greater than himself, whether it be protecting a client, righting a wrong, or avenging a friend.

If you like a fast read that's tense and action-packed, then give The First Rule a try. I know I'll be waiting eagerly for the next Joe Pike novel, but I'm not going to start reading it at 1am.

The First Rule (A Joe Pike Novel) by Robert Crais
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1st edition (January 12, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0399156135
ISBN-13: 978-0399156137

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