Thursday, 2 May 2013
One Man's Opinion: THE WATCHMAN by ROBERT CRAIS
I’ve been struggling to read of late. In fact, I always struggle to read to some extent. To make it worth the effort of revisiting lines and sentences that haven’t made sense, I have to be really engaged.
An audio-book seemed like a good thing to try as an alternative. I get to drive to work 2 or 3 times a week and have a CD player, so why not?
This isn’t the first audio-book I’ve tried. I’ve experimented many times in the past, but generally have found them a little frustrating. Apart from anything else, there are always those stutters and echoes that come with the territory – no doubt that comes from the ever-increasing number of pot-holes in our roads.
Anyway, I set off to Tranent last week to The Watchman by Robert Cray, read by William Roberts.
The story opens pretty slowly and in a fairly run-of-the-mill way.
A rather annoying rich girl is involved in an accident. Before long the FBI are interested because the girl identifies a dangerous killer as one of the passengers in the other car.
Not long after that, it seems that Larkin’s life is in jeopardy. That shouldn’t be a concern to a very wealthy father, only the first couple of safe-houses set up by the FBI under the protection of Bud are attacked by men aiming to kill Larkin.
In steps Joe Pike at the behest of the Bud. This pair has a history going back to Pike’s early days in the LAPD. It’s a history that is explored as the book unfolds and becomes a very satisfying strand of the novel.
The play is now that Larkin is under Pike’s protection.
They move to another safe house, one of Bud’s own. It should be perfectly safe, but it’s not long before they’re attacked and Pike is able to demonstrate some of his almost super-hero like abilities.
Pike and Larkin have little in common, or so it seems, and Pike’s insistence that they do things on his terms mean that the pretty little thing he’s protecting really has to slum it for a while.
It’s fairly ordinary up to this point.
I also found the narration to be a little strained. Some of the intonation jarred and the need to take on the voice of a gruff male and a teenage girl is quite a stretch.
There was also an element of repeating information just to make sure I’d got it as the listener that seemed a little heavy for me; a little more subtlety might have helped me here.
In spite of any reservations I stuck with it. The story had enough juice to keep me interested and I’m so glad I didn’t give up.
It’s not long after this that the plot thickens.
Elvis Cole comes into play, forensics at the LAPD, fraudsters, Mexican gangs, terrorists become part of the plot and it thickens up like perfectly made custard.
Best of all is Pike and his need to move forwards. Even when he’s wrong, there’s only one way.
As he does his job, his relationship with Larkin gels. They soften towards each other. The story develops into a rather splendid buddy tale. As each of the pair let their guard down, I got to know them more that I might have imagined. They even get to know each other in a way that seemed impossible at the off. It’s superbly done.
All the while, as things grew more complex and more gripping the narrations also became familiar. The jarring had gone and instead I found things to be smooth and silky – I guess that’s when a reader has done a good job.
By the end of the first week of commuting I had to bring the discs into the house. They’ve replaced the TV in the evenings and accompanied me as I’ve done the housework.
Pike's a great character. He has some of the hardness of Jack Reacher, but is far more human, believable and likeable.
It’s a very enjoyable book and a very satisfying listen.
I’ll be back for more audio-books and I’ll definitely be picking up more Robert Crais.