Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Renegades - T. Jefferson Parker


The Renegades
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton

Mystery

The old Wild West never really disappeared. Now, instead of ‘cowboys and Indians’ it’s cops and drug-runners. The modes of transportation may have changed, but the mentality is still very much there. Charlie Hood is now working in the high desert north of Los Angeles as a Sheriff’s Deputy. It’s a lot of wide-open spaces, desert, tumbleweeds, and a whole lot of driving. Charlie doesn’t mind the driving; he loves it. Maybe he’s chasing something, maybe something is chasing him, but the movement makes him feel better.

His new partner is Terry Laws, known throughout the department as “Mr. Wonderful,” not only for his bodybuilder physique, but also for his charity work and arrest record. But lately, Mr. Wonderful isn’t looking like he feels so wonderful. After a routine call, a dark figure wearing Blood colors shoots up the patrol car with an automatic weapon, killing Laws. Internal Affairs asks Hood to help them with the investigation into the shooting.

Part of the investigation is considering the possibility that Laws was a specific target. Looking into his past, Hood discovers that Laws had quite a bit of income without a definable source. Right about the time the money started coming in, something in Laws changed. The timing coincides with a major arrest Laws made while partnered with reserve deputy Coleman Draper. Finding out what really happened on the night of the arrest will be the key to breaking the case.

The reader knows exactly what happened on that night, right from the start, since it’s told in flashbacks, narrated by Draper. This removes a lot of the suspense from the story, since we’re just watching Hood piece together what we already know. The portions of the story that deal with his pursuit of the actual shooter and figuring out his involvement are more interesting, since that hasn’t been completely spelled out for the reader.

Since we know that Draper and Laws are/were involved in some seriously illegal activities, it’s hard to really care about finding justice for the murdered Laws. Hood is the only person to root for here, and maybe that’s a deliberate choice by the author. Hood is forced to work alone, pulled out of his normal duties by IA, putting everything together even when it seems that maybe no one really wants to know the truth. Hood is a character worth following, since his sense of justice is crystal clear and unwavering. The desert setting adds to this sense of isolation. The vast emptiness and extreme temperatures make for a hostile and unforgiving environment; the harshness a kind of metaphor for Hood’s situation.

Rating: 8
February 2009
ISBN# 978-0-525-98095-0 (hardcover)

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