Genre Genre Genre

Down on the Border

T. Jefferson Parker sets Iron River on the U.S.-Mexico border, where the guns flow freely south.

Book Cover Thomas Jefferson Parker has done well in the crime-story world, having written 16 well-received novels. The last two (LA Outlaws, The Renegades) featured LA Sheriff’s Department deputy Charlie Hood and the legend of a 19th-century Mexican outlaw Joaquin Murrieta, aka El Famoso. His newest opus, Iron River (Dutton), also features Hood, this time on loan to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATFE) as the U.S. government attempts to staunch the border shared with Mexico—the book’s title taken from the relentless flow of arms and munitions in the border locale.

The teenage son of Benjamin Armenta, drug cartel head, is accidentally killed in an ATFE taskforce operation. Armenta swears vengeance on those involved and soon has the Zetas, his army of killers, kidnap an American agent. The Zetas are feared for their merciless bloodlust (they behead and mutilate their victims—men, women, and children) and even after the American agent is recovered they storm a hospital to recapture him. In the meantime a young and innovative gun manufacturer has made a deal with another narcotraficante head to produce 1000 pistols of a new and effective model. Complicating this narrative is Mike Finnegan, who miraculously survives being struck by a Mercury traveling at 60 miles per hour. Finnegan seems to know about all the goings on that Charlie Hood is involved in but can’t explain how. Therein lies the one mystery of this nimble procedural.

Although I am not fond of crime-story series, Jefferson has managed to avoid many of there pitfalls by making the narrative dependent on the setting and circumstances and not so much on Charley Hood’s point of view and idiosyncrasies. It’s a trade-off that works as Iron River mirrors with great verisimilitude the volatile situation in the southern borderlands.

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R.I.P.—Writer Robert Parker, known for reinvigorating the hard-boiled detective genre, has passed away. Parker wrote over 50 crime stories, the most well known being his series recounting the adventures and exploits of Spenser, the Boston private investigator—who owed much of his persona to Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe.

In fact, with the Chandler estate’s encouragement, Parker undertook to complete Chandler’s unfinished manuscript Poodle Springs (made into a less-than-stirring film with James Caan as Marlowe). Personally my favorite of Parker’s novels is a standalone, All Our Yesterdays, a multi-generational epic set in Boston.

It seems odd to say of an author with an extensive oeuvre that “he will be missed,” but Parker and his wife Joan (the basis for his Spenser character Susan Silverman) were fixtures in Boston’s social scene (such as it is).
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