Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Charlie Hood: The Final Chapter

I yield to no one in my admiration of T. Jefferson Parker, and his Edgar Award-winning novel, Silent Joe ranks high on the list of my ten favorite books of all time. I also very much enjoyed the first three books in this series, but the series began to slip off the rails for me with the introduction of the character Mike Finnegan in the third book, Iron River.

It gives nothing away (at least nothing that hasn't been given away in the teases on the book covers) to say that Finnegan seemed to possess mysterious knowledge and powers that bordered on the supernatural. The issue of whether he did or not was left unresolved in that book, but the fourth and fifth books left it clear that Finnegan was, in fact, some sort of supernatural being, and the series protagonist, Charlie Hood became increasingly obsessed with the notion of tracking down Finnegan and somehow bringing him to heel.

Still, there was the faint chance that in this, this sixth and concluding volume of the series, Parker would finally provide some explanation for Finnegan's actions that would seem rational, logical and ultimately human after all. But that was not to be the case. Instead, we have Finnegan, who actually is a devil and who has lived on earth for generations spreading his mischief, in conflict not only with Charlie Hood and other human beings but with at least one angel and a number of other devils as well.

On a more temporal level, Charlie Hood, an L.A. County Sheriff's deputy, is still on loan to the ATF, stationed on the southern border in California, attempting to staunch the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico. Three corrupt cops from Missouri show up on the border attempting to sell machine guns and rocket launchers to the highest bidder. Hood goes undercover in an effort to trap the men and learn the source of their weapons.

Meanwhile, Bradley Jones, the corrupt son of the late Suzanne Jones, continues to work as a Sheriff's deputy while at the same time he's still in the employ of a notorious Mexican drug lord named Carlos Herredia. Bradley is also trying to work his way back into the good graces of his pregnant wife Erin, from whom he was estranged in the last book in the series. Meanwhile, the devil, Mike Finnegan, attempts to seduce and further corrupt Bradley and to make as much trouble for Charlie Hood as he possibly can. Charlie will not rest until he has tamed the menace that Finnegan represents.

Parker is a very graceful writer, and I really like the character of Charlie Hood. The story of Hood and other law enforcement officers struggling to stem the flow of weapons along the so-called Iron River is a timely and compelling one, and Charlie's tortured relationship with Bradley Jones is gripping. But I confess that I was totally unable to buy into the occult and supernatural aspects of this story.

I like my crime fiction to be logical and rational, even though at times it may require a significant suspension of disbelief. I can't buy into vampire detectives, dogs and cats solving mysteries and all that sort of thing. And as much as I admire T. Jefferson Parker, I just couldn't follow him down this path. This is still, overall, an excellent series, but to my mind it would have been even better without the introduction of the angels and demons.

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