The First Rule, by Robert Crais

Frank Mercer is a family man, long since retired from working as a mercenary, having put that life behind him. One night his home is attacked, and despite Frank's efforts to defend them, everyone in the house, including Frank, is shot dead. The police have some leads but seem to be struggling, but then Joe Pike, one of Frank's oppos from back in the day, finds out about Frank, and decides to take matters into his own hands.

I've read a few by Robert Crais and I think I liked them all except the Elvis Cole series, which seems to form the larger part of his output. I've read one Cole book which I didn't like that much. So I checked before getting this that it wasn't one from that series.

The premise was promising: crack ex-soldier enlisting the help of his other military buddies to kick ass, which turns out to be an east european gun-smuggling syndicate. And to start with it seemed pretty good.

But from about half-way in, I sort of started to lose interest. This was not entirely because it was an Elvis Cole novel. I think it's not a conventional PI Cole book: Pike is friends with Cole and so asks for his help in doing some legwork, and Cole ends up coming along for the ride. I've only read one other Cole book, but this felt a bit out of character - in this book he's with Pike while they're torturing people and running around getting shot at by crazed Serbians.

But I think the main problem I had was when it turned out there were actually two competing gangs, and Pike had to play one off against the other. I think maybe this could have been a good plot in a novel, but in a pulpy crime book it was just a bit confusing: there was little to distinguish one set of gang members from another, and so it was hard to keep track of which side was which, let alone care.

Bit disappointing then.

Completed : 10-Oct-2011

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