After introducing Charlie Hood in his last novel, L.A. Outlaws, T. Jefferson Parker brings Hood back for a second-straight appearance, something Parker has done rarely — possibly ever — in his 15 previous novels. While I may have nit-picked some things in my reviews of Parker’s last three novels, which I liked but didn’t love, I can emphatically say that The Renegades was a damn good book that I damn much enjoyed. The premise is straight-forward: Hood’s partner, Terry Laws, is killed in the line of duty and Charlie is the one who is chosen to find the killer of a cop known as Mr. Wonderful. In typical police procedural fashion, the standard question comes up: Is Laws as perfect as everyone thinks he is? Hood’s investigation takes him into the California desert as well as an equally desolate area near the Mexican border, home to the obligatory drug smugglers. (Allison Murietta, the lead character and Charlie’s love interest in L.A. Outlaws, is referenced several times in the book while her son, Bradley, is featured in the book. Unlike previous Parker novels that were of the stand-alone variety, it would be advisable to read L.A. Outlaws prior to The Renegades to truly understand the plot.) While Hood may have played more of a supporting role in the previous book, in The Renegades there is no question that he is the lead character. And Parker likely has set the stage for Hood — and the desert he patrols — to return, a decision that should delight readers of the first two Charlie Hood novels.
Archive for category T. Jefferson Parker
In my review of Storm Runners, the previous novel by T. Jefferson Parker, I hoped for the return of a somewhat normal lead character. In L.A. Outlaws, Parker obeys my wish. Sort of. The book focuses on Allison Murietta, a modern day bandit that steals cars, robs fast food joints and gives much of her criminal proceeds to various charities. Imagine a female version of Robin Hood with Spanish ancestry and you get the idea. While it may appear that way in the first half of the book, it turns out the not-so-normal Murietta is not the main character. That distinction belongs to Charlie Hood, a member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who previously served in the military with Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Hood becomes involved in the search for some missing diamonds that left several MS-13 and Asian gang members dead. Not much else can said without giving things away other than the fact that I was a little perplexed when I finished this book. I kept expecting some kind of plot twist as the book wrapped up. There wasn’t one. In fact, not only did things end as expected, they just kind of ended. Maybe I’m spoiled from reading the likes of Michael Connelly and Robert Crais, but in retrospect, this book simply seemed a bit flat to me. Well written and well researched, it does a great job chronicling the legend of Wild West L.A. Outlaw Joaquin Murietta, an ancestor of Allison’s. But it just seems that most of Parker’s effort went into telling a compelling history lesson kind and things were somewhat lacking when it came to the modern day mystery part of the book.
I really like T. Jefferson Parker. He’s a damn good writer who keeps getting better and better. But his novels are starting to bug me. The last book of his that I reviewed, The Fallen, featured a cop who survived a fall from a tall building. I noted that this reminded me of a previous book about a sympathetic character, Silent Joe, which featured a cop who was disfigured. So what happens in Storm Runners? Parker comes right back with a cop turned private investigator who survived a bomb blast and lost an eye and finger, among other injuries. Parker pet peeve aside, this is another really good book. In the first sentence, Parker establishes that a high school friend killed Stromsoe’s wife and young child. From there, the tale unfolds and you can probably figure out the direction in which things are headed. In keeping with the title, one of the interesting topics in the book is meteorology, as Stromsoe’s romantic interest is a TV weather forecaster whose hobby and life’s work is cloud seeding or making it rain, as Pacman Jones would say. (While reading about the rainmaking, I couldn’t help but remember a book I read as a kid, The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists’ Club, which was written in the late 1960’s and was well before its time. In that book, a bunch of teenagers used rockets filled with chemicals to make it rain in their town, which was having a drought. In Storm Runners, a similar fate happens once the characters mess with Mother Nature.) Another interesting topic in the book is the Mexican Mafia and ways they are able to communicate with their leader, who is serving time in prison. (Harvard won’t be too happy that the vicious leader of La Eme is a graduate of their school.) Even though there are more similarities and less originality than I prefer in a book, I enjoyed Storm Runners. With that said, I hope Parker returns to a more normal lead character in his next novel.
I have to admit, I picked up a T. Jefferson Parker novel years ago since it was right next to veteran author Robert Parker’s large section of books. His early books were decent, but in the last four or five, he’s really hit his stride and I can’t walk by his books without picking up the latest. (Ironically, since then, I haven’t bought a Robert Parker novel, although I really enjoy his work, as well.) Four books ago, in the novel Silent Joe, the main character was a cop who was disfigured in a childhood accident. When I read the prologue and the first chapter of The Fallen, whose main character is a cop who survived a six-story fall, I was ready to rip on Parker for using the same sympathetic character modus operandi once again. However, the more I read, the more I really got into this novel. And how the accident has affected the life and job of the main character, Robbie Brownlaw. Similar to Silent Joe, Parker weaves a great murder mystery. And one that also includes a look into local politics — fictitious, of course, but likely with a huge semblance of truth. Parker has written three books with female lead Merci Rayborn. Brownlaw is much more compelling — and human — in my opinion, and here’s hoping Parker keeps his m.o. and brings back Brownlaw for a future novel.