Book Reviews: The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker, Red Jade by Henry Chang, and Edge by Jeffery Deaver

The Border Lords
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95200-8
Hardcover

This latest Charlie Hood novel is as confusing as it is well-written and well-researched; the plot (or plots) are at once baffling and intriguing. The story draws the reader along by its sheer force right up to the end.  Many of the characters that appeared in the preceding novel in the series, Iron River, are present here, with Charlie, still on loan to the ATF from the Sheriff’s Department, working along the Mexican border, this time chasing narcotic kingpins but still following the trail of guns crossing both ways over the border.

It is almost impossible to briefly summarize the book.  There is Sean Ozburn, an ATF operative working undercover who goes crazily renegade after 15 months.  A friend, Charlie has to look into Oz’ behavior to find out why he no long resembles the man he used to be.  Is it the stress of working undercover that led Oz to slaughter three low-level narcotics runners in a safe house he established for a Mexican drug baron?

The subplots, involving characters from Iron River like Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan, are interspersed along the way, somehow interrelated with the main theme just to bewilder the reader, each with its own ax to grind.  One walks away from this novel with one of at least two reactions: It is either a brilliant tour-de-force or an utterly psychedelic product of an agile mind.  Either way, it makes for an interesting read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2011.

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Red Jade
Henry Chang
Soho Crime, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56947-859-2
Hardcover

Detective Jack Yu somehow can’t escape New York’s Chinatown in this third novel in the series.  Apparently, he is the Fifth Precinct’s token Chinese-American, called upon when sensitivity to the community and its inhabitants is necessary.  He had recently transferred to the Ninth Precinct in Brooklyn and he moved to that borough’s Sunset Park area following the death of his father, but he can’t escape his past.

In the early morning hours, he’s called in to handle an apparent murder-suicide, his presence requested by the fathers of the victims who believe he can provide the necessary “face saving” for the families.  This task accomplished, Jack then pays attention to a couple of open cases, eventually traveling to Seattle at his own expense in an attempt to solve them.

All three novels in the series are economically written, especially short chapters, with a smattering of Chinese words for flavor (no MSG).  This police procedural moves in logical progression across the continent, looking at more than the Chinatown of New York’s Lower East Side.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2011.

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Edge
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4391-5635-3
Hardcover

While Jeffery Deaver’s newest novel is uneven, it is unusually enigmatic, always coming up with the unexpected.  The characters often seem wooden, but their adventures are anything but dull, taking the reader from one gripping situation to another.  The plot involves a secret government agency that specializes in protecting victims until the pursuer is captured or neutralized.

Information is received that a D.C. detective has been targeted by a “lifter” (one who specializes in extracting information from victims by any method necessary).  Protecting the cop and his family falls to Corte, the protégé of a man killed by the “lifter’ seven years earlier on another job. While shepherding the family, Corte also has to find out what prompted the targeting of the detective.  This leads to a deadly game as Corte and his opponent move back and forth to an endgame.

One can look at Corte as an exciting new character in Deaver’s collection, or as a relatively boring protagonist who is extremely proficient at what he does in sort of robotic fashion.  What keeps the story moving steadily is an unusual twist at each turn of events, not giving the reader any clue as to what is coming.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2011.