The First Rule by Robert Crais: When former cop and military contractor Joe Pike learns that one of his former colleagues and his entire family has been brutally murdered in a home invasion, he vows to seek vengeance, no matter the cost. Pike originally began as a side character in Crais's popular Elvis Cole series of detective novels, but here the tables are turned and the wisecracking Cole is the supporting character while the taciturn Pike gets the starring role. It works really well, too. Pike is another in the line of loners and outsiders, pariahs by choice like Lee Child's Jack Reacher or Andrew Vachss's Burke. Pike digs deep into the ethnic gang wars that are forming the dark underbelly of Los Angeles criminal activity as he makes and breaks uneasy alliances with cops and criminals alike in the search for his friends killer. The action is non-stop, and the plot is logical and exciting. Since Pike is the quiet outsider, focus is less on dialogue and more on action and setting which suits Crais's writing style quite well.
The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett: I have long found this series of detective novels by John Burdett fascinating. The main character is a devoutly Buddhist Thai cop in Bangkok, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, who tries to remain unscathed by the madness and corruption around him while solving crimes that often involve foreign visitors. This book has three main plots, as the detective must attempt to solve the spectacular murder of an American film director while arranging to be the facilitator of the delivery of a massive shipment of heroin that his corrupt boss conspires to sell with the head of the armed forces. Complicating this is his meeting with Tietsin, a Tibetan with mystical powers that leads the detective to reach out to him as a spiritual guru. So there's a lot going on in this novel, and either of the three plots probably could have been spun out for a novel in their own right. Burdett keeps all of the balls in the air quite admirably though, and the unique perspective of the detective, viewing crime and punishment through the unique lens of Buddhism makes for very interesting story.
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