I’ve been a fan of Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole private eye series since it debuted in The Monkey’s Raincoat back in 1987. The thing that immediately caught my attention was the mirror sunglasses on the cover that showed the unmistakable image of Jiminy Cricket standing next to a double-edged razor blade. On Stalking The Angel, the second book in the series, it was the silhouette of Mickey Mouse holding a gun.
Robert B. Parker and Raymond Chandler permanently warped my mind for the wicked retorts and one-liners Spenser and Philip Marlowe (the authors’ respective characters) were fond of. I can’t help myself. I love detectives who get caught between the bad guys and the cops to save a client who isn’t quite innocent but doesn’t deserve to be given up to the devil.
Elvis Cole, the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Detective, is irreverent, witty, driven, and self-assured. More so in the beginning of the series than in recent books after tragedy has hit him again and again.
Every private eye from the 1980s onward, though, has had to have a combative second, a darker side who will do things the private eye won’t do. Someone who will unflinchingly step over lines and rules the private eye has set for himself/herself.
Spenser has Hawk. Harlan Coben’s sports agent Myron Bolitar has Windsor Horne Lockwood III – “Win.” Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, Dennis Lehane’s detectives, have Bubba. Elvis Cole has Joe Pike, his invisible partner who can be counted on to help Elvis pick up the pieces every time an investigation goes south or turns bloody.
For much of the thus far ten-book series, Joe Pike has been an enigma. We saw part of him step on to stage in L.A. Requiem and The Last Detective, but we’ve never really gotten a true look behind those mirror shades Pike wears even at night.
We know from the books that Pike, like Elvis, is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He’s an ex-cop from the Los Angeles Police Department who all the other cops hate. He’s a trained mercenary. He owns different business interests that no one knows about. He’s fastidious. He doesn’t let anyone into his life, and even Elvis only gets his friendship and not much of Pike’s history.