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THE FIRST RULE is the second Robert Crais novel to feature Joe Pike, PI Elvis Cole’s sidekick, as the main player with Cole as the back-up.

Frank Meyer and his whole family, wife and two small sons, are murdered by a home invasion crew. The only survivor is a nanny, shot in the face and chest, who’s not expected to last long. He’s an old friend from Pike’s military and mercenary days and the police connect the two because of a set of tattoos Meyer had: two red arrow heads, tips facing forward on his biceps. The police knew of one other such set, on Joe Pike.

They come calling.

The home invasion crew had hit six previous homes, all connected with crime in some fashion. The cops suspect Frank Meyer is also in crime and seek answers from Pike.

Meyer had been out of the business for a dozen years, working now as a clothing importer. Joe knew he had nothing to do with crime and sets out to prove it.

The same guns had been used in all seven invasions with one difference. The first six had three on the job. A fourth had been added for the Meyer hit.

The police had one suspect staked out. Not a real suspect but related to one believed involved. But Pike was not the cops. He slips in and questions the relative in his own inimitable manner. The fourth on the Meyer hit was a Serbian.

And suddenly the case takes on a new light. The nanny had been a Serbian.

As he gets deeper into his investigation, Federal authorities get involved, there’s a ten month old boy mixed in somehow, a load of stolen Chinese automatic weapons coming into the country, and a war between two factions of the Eastern European underworld, Los Angeles division.

A dangerous bunch to mess with.

But they didn’t realize how dangerous Joe Pike happens to be. He begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the criminals to draw out Meyer’s murderer, offering himself up as the cheese.

An adrenaline charged thriller that’s well worth a read.