One only need to read a few reviews of T. Jefferson Parker's work, and consequently book reviews, to come to the realization that readers either love him or hate him. The Jaguar is no different. I think this is because his novels don’t conform to any one particular style of crime fiction. He is usually associated with "police procedurals" when in fact a number of his novels are classic "whodunits" and have nothing to do with "police procedurals" as a style. He also can write in a hardboiled style, or a noir style and often mixes these together. I happen to think this is a good thing, and it isn’t the mixing of styles that loses me.
The Jaguar opens with the violent kidnapping of Erin McKenna, the beautiful and talented songwriter and performer. Erin also is the newlywed wife of a crooked Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, Bradley Jones. It is soon deduced that Erin has been kidnapped by Benjamin Armenta, the cut throat leader of The Gulf Cartel. Bradley will do anything to get her back, even to the tune of delivering a $1,000,000 ransom (or personal apology) and ending his illicit protection of Carlos Herredia and the North Baja Cartel in Los Angles. He has ten days to comply. If he does not, then Armenta will skin Erin alive.
It soon becomes clear that Armenta must want more. A million dollars for a drug kingpin is tip money, and Bradley realizes that it is his humiliation and probable death that is really desired. But, why didn’t they just kill him and have have done with it?
He doesn’t have time to answer these questions as the clock is ticking. He enlists the help of long time family friend and veteran L.A. County Deputy, Charlie Hood. Hood will deliver the money while Bradley, with a team of mercenaries tries to penetrate and assault Armenta’s well guarded jungle compound.
Erin soon learns that it isn’t the money that Armenta wants, it is her song writing talent. She is to compose the perfect narcocorrido, a folk ballad that records the exploits of the drug dealers, gunrunners, and outlaws. Armenta wants to celebrate his life in song and he has a fully equipped recording studio in his jungle mansion. Armenta proceeds to tell his life story to Erin, so that she will be able to write the song as truthfully as possible. How he was left to a life on the streets, practically begging for food and fighting off predatory gangs and lone men, little better than animals, that would prey on a young homeless boy. How he became first a thief, then a drug dealer and slowly built his empire.