T. Jefferson Parker is justly renowned for creating some of crime fiction's most unconventional characters, but in "The Border Lords," he may have taken things a bit too far.
In the past, he has given us characters like Allison Murrieta, an outrageous lady outlaw descended from a famous early California bandito, and Robbie Brownlaw, a homicide detective suffering from a rare neurological disorder that makes him "see" voices as colors.
But in "The Border Lords," Parker introduces Joe Leftwich, a Roman Catholic priest who exposes two characters to a deadly disease for reasons that are never made clear.
Parker also brings back Mike Finnegan, who first made his appearance in "Iron River" (2010), and who once again seems to know things he could not possibly know. But this time, Finnegan flatly claims that he is a vampire who's been undead for thousands of years.
Whether Finnegan is merely meant to symbolize evil or if his claim is supposed to be taken seriously remains unclear. Parker offers the reader no guidance on the matter. Meanwhile, the otherwise intelligent characters sickened by Leftwich inexplicably fail to recognize their raging symptoms as an illness. And both Finnegan and Leftwich figure in a plot twist that the reader will see coming from 200 pages.
"The Border Lords" is Parker's fourth novel in what until now has been a brilliant series featuring Charlie Hood, a Los Angeles lawman assigned to help the AFT stem the flow of illegal American firearms to Mexican drug cartels. Two more books are planned for the series.
The book, as with most of the others in the series, is both violent and bleak. And as always with a Parker novel, the landscape is evocatively portrayed, and the exceptional prose swings from hard-boiled to lyrical.
Bruce DeSilva, an Edgar Award nominee for best first mystery novel, is the author of "Rogue Island."