Monday, February 21, 2011


Two recent crime novels focus on tough guys in deadly situations. One is set mostly in Los Angeles while the other takes place in Afghanistan.

"The Sentry" by award-winning author Robert Crais (Putnam, $26.95) is the latest in his series featuring Joe Pike, ex-cop and former mercenary.

Pike, who originally appeared in earlier novels as a sidekick to Elvis Cole ("The World's Greatest Detective"), has become a major character in his own right.

It starts innocently enough, when Pike steps in to break up the beating of Wilson Smith, a local sandwich shop owner, by a pair of young gang members.

Wilson's niece, Dru, joins them at the scene. She's worried about further retribution, but Pike assures her that there won't be any more problems. He's wrong.
Pike learns that federal agents have been watching the storefront, and the case becomes more complicated.
Smith and Rayne, who fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, have their own dark secrets. A killer is after them, leaving a bloody trail of corpses. Pike and Cole are in a violent, desperate struggle for survival, with unexpected consequences.

The award-winning author, who attended MSU's Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writer's Workshop, has many years of television experience, including scriptwriting for "Miami Vice" and "Hill Street Blues."

Crais has written a gut-wrenching tale of death and deception. It's full of fast-paced action, vivid characters and clever plot twists.

"The Severance" by Elliott Sawyer (Bridge Works, $23.95) is a debut novel by a former U.S. Army Captain who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It features Capt. Jake Roberts, the head of a "rehabilitation platoon" that's made up of misfits and troublemakers. His unit gets assigned the tough challenges, much like the World War II soldiers who fought and were heroes of "The Dirty Dozen."

The first part of the novel introduces the assorted characters and their battles in the Afghan mountains. During one trip, they recover almost $5 million dollars in cash stashed by a crooked government contractor.
Plans are made to get the money back to the United States. But somebody's greedy and a scheme is uncovered to hijack the shipment.

This is a satisfactory but not spectacular crime novel that may be enjoyable for military fiction fans.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, February, 20 2011.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

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