IRON RIVER by T. Jefferson Parker

Book Quote:

“One of the dead was a teenaged boy named Gustavo Armenta, who was on a date that night, and as Hood carried another box into the house, he pictured the way Gustavo had led his girlfriend by the hand from the restaurant patio and how a few moments later an errant bullet had found his heart in the darkness fifty yards away, stopping eighteen years of past and sixty years of future dead and forever. The other dead man was a gun dealer with a revoked license.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett (APR 17, 2010)

In LA Sheriff’s Deputy Charlie Hood’s third adventure, set in the California desert border town of Buenavista, Hood joins an ATF operation to stem gunrunning to Mexico. When an ATF weapons-buy ends in the accidental death of a cartel leader’s son, the bad guys take revenge, abducting and torturing the agent responsible. Naturally a rescue is in the offing.

Meanwhile, the scion of a bankrupt local gun maker, Ron Pace, finds a way to get the family business going again by selling an ingenious untraceable gun – his design – to the cartels. Bradley Jones, son of bandit Allison Murrietta (from Hood’s debut in L.A Outlaw) brokers the deal even as he enters training for the LA Sheriff’s Department Explorers.

Point of view switches quickly among various characters. All but Pace, the talented gun designer-turned-illegal arms dealer, are known to Hood, mostly in a friendly way.

The action is fast and furious but there’s time for a budding romance for Hood and a 3-day wedding for Bradley Jones. Political tension simmers as the two governments bristle at border raids and Parker shows how intractable and complicated the situation is in reality – on both sides of the border.

Parker’s prose is upbeat, even jaunty, but a dark, persistent thread runs through his stories. The characters are all likeable except for out and out villains, such as cartel leaders. But Pace is an engaging, lovesick young man and Jones is full of life and fun.

There’s a whiff of the mythical and mystical in these Hood novels too, stemming originally from the legacy of the outlaw Joaquin Murrietta, and now increased with the introduction of a new character, Mike Finnegan. Finnegan, hit by a car at the beginning of the book, spends most of it encased in bandages in a hospital bed, but that doesn’t keep him from knowing more than he should about Hood’s business. Finnegan and his enigmatic daughter feel like characters readers will be seeing more of in the future.

The plot background is well fleshed out from various angles – the cartels, the Mexican police and soldiers, American drug demand, US gun politics and more. But while it sometimes seems hopeless, it never feels preachy. This is a quirky, desert-steeped series that should appeal to fans of character-driven, politically themed thrillers.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 71 readers
PUBLISHER: Dutton Adult; First Ediition (January 5, 2010)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
AUTHOR WEBSITE: T. Jefferson Parker
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April 17, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: California, Character Driven, Mexico, Sleuths Series, Wild West, y Award Winning Author

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