Book Review: Bullet in the Blue Sky by Bill Larkin

Bullet in the Blue SkyBullet in the Blue Sky
Bill Larkin
William Larkin, July 2016
ISBN 978-0-9894002-1-3Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the chaotic aftermath of a massive earthquake that leveled much of the Los Angeles region, a LAPD deputy chief sends an elite team of detectives on a rescue mission. They are ordered to set aside all law enforcement duties, to ignore the destruction and to focus on one task: Find LAPD Detective Gavin Shaw, who disappeared just before the earthquake.

Kevin “Schmitty” Schmidt of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department joins five others on the rescue team. With rioting, looting, attacks and homicides rampant in the streets, the six cops have to defend themselves while chasing down leads on the whereabouts of Shaw. The mission takes them through the dizzying war zone and the more they encounter, the more they wonder why they are searching for one man in these extreme circumstances. Why is this man so important to the deputy chief, and why now?

Schmitty discovers that others with high connections are also after Shaw. The questions pile even higher when they learn of a shadowy history between Shaw and the deputy chief. A history with deadly consequences for the team as they uncover a threat that elevates the mission to a race against time.

From the moment I began reading Bullet in the Blue Sky, I was captivated by this story in a myriad of ways. The core premise, that this hodgepodge group of law enforcement officers is tasked with finding one particular detective after the earthquake hits, is a fresh idea (to me, at least) and the author does a fantastic job of melding their mission with the horrible aftermath of the quake. Gang warfare erupts, looting is rampant, and the sheer effort involved in getting anywhere through the massive damage seems as true to life as I could want, never having been in such a situation myself.

The tension rarely lets up and that alone would have kept me turning pages but I also was really drawn to this band of people who can be seen as heroes but who actually are just doing the job they’ve dedicated their lives to. Each one is vividly drawn, especially Schmitty and Mata, and each has his or her own strengths and vulnerabilities, even the quite unlikeable Anderson. I wanted to know not only what would happen to them but also how they would accomplish their goal.

As for the reason behind their search and rescue mission, the reader knows only a tiny bit more than they do and it’s just enough to whet the appetite. I had my own theories but had to keep looking in different directions as more information slowly came to light. When all was said and done, Mr. Larkin’s details took me by surprise page after page until the very end. Even the explanation of the book’s title is filled with meaning.

My only quibble is that some things seem to happen a bit too easily. For instance, they’re in the midst of a disaster and looting is severe but at no point are they unable to find food, water or medical supplies. Granted, the choices might be limited to chips and over-the-counter painkillers but it’s unrealistic to think that such things would still be on the shelves in a looted convenience store or school cafeteria. Still, this was just a minor blip in an otherwise tightly woven story.

Mr. Larkin drew me in initially with two of my favorite themes, law enforcement and disasters, and he never let me down along the way, filling his tale with twists and turns and creating situations that test loyalty and ingenuity while being realistic about what would happen to society after such a major quake. I couldn’t ask for more and Bullet in the Blue Sky will be on my list of favorite books read in 2016.

Note: the author doesn’t seem to categorize his writings as a series but both Schmitty and Mata can be found in earlier work and I’ll be checking them out whenever they become available through an epub retailer.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.



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An Excerpt from Bullet in the Blue Sky

The adjunct lieutenant moved into the conference room and stood behind Jenkins and off to the side. Jenkins now addressed our five–person team.

“Your orders are to find Detective Gavin Shaw. He’s a member of Major Crimes and I need him here or I need to know where he is. That’s it. Nothing more.”

As Jenkins paused, several of the detectives looked at each other. Anderson opened her mouth. “Is he—“

Jenkins put up a hand. “You are not, repeat not, to take on law enforcement duties. You are not out to arrest looters, answer radio calls, help firefighters, or anything else you think you ought to be doing. Your only assignment is to find Shaw. And find him as fast as you possibly can. Am I clear?”

“Can I ask the importance of Detective Shaw at this juncture?” Mata said.

“No, you may not. Find him and bring him to me.”

“A search-and-rescue mission?” Anderson said in a puzzled tone.

“Call it that, Anderson. Lieutenant Tallon is in charge and you’d better be aware of what you’re facing. This city is falling apart. Aside from the destruction, there are forty-five thousand gang members, and at least that same number of state parolees and felons on probation. Then there are the opportunists who will loot, burglarize, and kill without the police to stop them. That’s probably a hundred fifty thousand bad guys in a city of rubble and fire.”

Jenkins let that number sink in a moment. The man projected political polish, as I would expect from somebody of his rank, but he didn’t hide his edgy urgency.

He went on. “The LAPD has almost ten thousand sworn, but who knows how many are still alive, much less how many can physically get mobilized. Break that down into twelve-hour shifts and there might be two thousand cops in the whole city at any given time. Three thousand if we’re lucky.”

Lieutenant Tallon said, “Sir that makes the odds against the LAPD about sixty-to-one.” His voice carried both cordiality and self-assurance.

Jenkins nodded. “That’s right. But you will be undercover. Plain clothes and a plain vehicle.”

“Where is Shaw?” Anderson asked.

“I don’t know.” Jenkins nodded to his adjunct who stepped forward and handed a folder to Tallon, then stepped back. “Here is his address and personal information. Best guess is home, but start wherever you need to and find the man.”

Anderson made a small snort. “What if he’s dead?”

“You find him, either way.”

One thing was for sure. Jenkins wasn’t sugarcoating the assignment.

“What about help from the outside?” I asked.

“In time. They’ll mobilize the National Guard and we’ll get relief and search-and-rescue teams, but it’ll take days.”

Tallon said, “We’ll be mostly on our own for the first forty-eight hours. Keep in mind just about every other city in Southern California has the same problems. Some worse, some better.”

“Jesus,” Anderson said.

Tallon said, “Chief, you’ll be here? We bring Shaw here?”

“At this time, I am in command of the department. The chief, assistant and other deputy chiefs have not yet been in contact. That means I’m the Director of Emergency Operations until further notice. That’s all. Dismissed.”

Jenkins motioned to Tallon to follow him and they stepped outside of the conference room with the adjunct lieutenant close behind. Tallon stood about six inches taller than the deputy chief, but Jenkins didn’t seem the least bit intimidated.

The doorway stayed open and I stood up, keeping my back to them, but close enough to hear.

“Lieutenant, I don’t know you very well, but I’ll tell you this with certainty. This is the most difficult challenge you’ll ever face on this job. I was told you have the intellect, resourcefulness, and tenacity to carry this out. Do not disappoint me.”

I heard Jenkins walk away. When I turned, Tallon had locked eyes with the other lieutenant. A beat later, she hurried after her boss.


About the Author

Bill LarkinBill Larkin writes crime fiction and is the author of two highly-acclaimed books: Bullet in the Blue Sky and Detective Lessons. He has also written several short stories, including “The Highlands” and “Shadow Truth”, both Amazon category bestsellers. Bill previously served as a reserve with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, then the Los Angeles Police Department where he worked in four different divisions and a detective assignment. Bill is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

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