Daily Archives: July 27, 2016
Book Review: Hard Latitudes by Baron R. Birtcher
Mike Tavis #4
Baron R. Birtcher
Permanent Press, May 2015
The fourth entry on the Mike Travis series is just as good as the earlier books, and that is high praise indeed. The novel begins with the protagonist looking back at incidents that began eleven years prior, and an intricate and fascinating tale it is. It starts in Macau in 1994, with an act of violence whose repercussions are felt in different far-flung parts of the world and do not, initially, involve Mike in any way.
Mike, 6’2” and a retired LAPD homicide detective, since leaving LA has been living in Hawaii, where he runs a chartering service for private scuba and luxury cruises out of Kona, on his 72’ sailing yacht, the Kehau, after running a similar operation off the Southern California coast. Mike is the son of a very wealthy man, which he tries to forget, mostly with success, nor make others aware of it. When his brother, heavily involved in the family business, calls from LA and tells Mike that his “indiscretions” have come back to haunt him in a big – and very public – – way, Mike makes immediate arrangements to return to LA to help him out (making his relationship with his significant other, Lani, even more problematical).
Along the way the author reflects on the history of both South Central LA in late April 1992, during the time of the riots, when he was still on the police force, as well as descriptions of the natural beauty of Hawaii, about which he says, e.g., “Twilight is my favorite time of day to walk the Kona waterfront. The flickering lights of the village begin to cycle on, piercing the encroaching darkness, the heat of the day leeching from the concrete and up through the soles of your sandals while cool wind drifts in off the water.” He pays tribute to LA as well, describing the sunrise as presenting a sky that is “a purple so deep that it appeared to bruise the sky.” At the same time, he also says “Every time I come back to this town, it slithers back inside me. I had never intended to be a cynic, never imagined I would feel such contempt, and especially had never wanted to lose hope. I wanted to believe in greater things, like grace, like justice, like integrity; I wanted to believe in heroes or a higher purpose.”
The narrative is interspersed from time to time with the events set into motion in Macau over a decade ago.
Mike’s efforts on behalf of his brother as a “reluctant pi” have repercussions that place both him and his brother in jeopardy, as well as Mike’s former partner on the LAPD, Hans Yamaguchi, who assists him in his efforts, which have unexpected and serious consequences. In addition to this story line, this is a tale of sexual slavery and human trafficking, not for the faint of heart I might add, with fairly frequent violence (happily, for the most part not graphic.) It is a gripping story, beautifully written, and highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2016.