I’ve been reading T. Jefferson Parker’s Southern California mysteries for a decade now, starting with the Merci Rayborn series such as Black Water and Red Light, two of his character-driven thrillers. I have since moved on to another T. Jefferson Parker series featuring Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy, Charlie Hood.
The Renegades opens with Hood’s partner, Terry Laws, being machine-gunned to death while on a routine house call with Hood. Hood escapes the ambush and is subsequently hired by internal affairs to investigate Terry Law’s past to see if it has any connection with his murder. What Hood discovers is far from the squeaky clean image Law has established in the department. He finds unusual cash deposits in Law’s bank account and a bogus charity foundation that generates an unusual amount of donations. The recent double-murder of two Mexican cartel runners in a Joshua Tree highway in which a substantial amount of drug money goes missing raises his suspicion that a group of rogue deputies may be operating in the desert.
What I like about T. Jefferson Parker novels is the fast-paced narrative complemented with rich literary tones, so rare in mysteries and thrillers. The same type of narrative holds true for The Renegades, but darkly-flavored with noir. The prose and descriptions in the book are excellent, so cinematic one could almost picture the Joshua trees and the massive boulders of Jacumba. There are a few unlikeable (and unsavory) characters that I thought receive too much page time, which somewhat negatively impacted the book. I mean, who would want to follow these terribly unsympathetic yoyos?
Nonetheless, this is a good story worthy of a read for the gripping suspense built into the narrative. While The Renegades doesn’t compare with the excellence of Black Water, whose main characters were well-developed and likeable, I would still give this book the nod.