Books by T. Jefferson Parker

Parker was educated in public schools in Orange County, and took a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, in 1976. He was honored in 1992 as the Distinguished Alumnus. His writing career began in 1978, as a cub reporter


THE LAST GOOD GUY  by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Aug. 13, 2019

"In the third case for his franchise hero, the prolific Parker summons the memory of retro hard-boiled crime yarns."
A Southern California shamus pursues a missing teen who may be far from innocent. Read full book review >
SWIFT VENGEANCE by T. Jefferson Parker
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 21, 2018

"Prolific Parker's impressive prose and skill in sketching concise character portraits make his complex follow-up to The Room of White Fire (2017) an all-too-believable page-turner."
A private eye seeking to help a military friend matches wits with a devious, deviant killer. Read full book review >
THE ROOM OF WHITE FIRE by T. Jefferson Parker
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 22, 2017

"An impressive series kickoff from the prolific Parker (Crazy Blood, 2016, etc.), packed with interesting supporting characters and written with clarity and economy."
A resourceful private investigator uncovers layers of deception in his search for an escaped mental patient. Read full book review >
CRAZY BLOOD by T. Jefferson Parker
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 15, 2016

"Despite a picturesque setting, there's little here beyond a drawn-out family squabble on skis."
Two brothers battle for dominance on the slopes in hopes of shaking a decadeslong family curse. Read full book review >
FULL MEASURE by T. Jefferson Parker
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 7, 2014

"Parker's first foray out of his established—and award-winning—crime-fiction niche is a disappointment, despite some compelling subject matter."
A young Marine returns from Afghanistan to find his small California hometown almost as dangerous as the threats he faced from the Taliban. Read full book review >
THE FAMOUS AND THE DEAD by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 18, 2013

"Part cops-versus-drugs-and-guns procedural, part elemental morality play, part fire-and-brimstone mythmaking, all of it inimitably Parker."
Parker reaches once more into the real-life story of Operation Fast & Furious to conclude his sprawling, multivolume saga of Charlie Hood, the seen-it-all deputy of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Read full book review >
THE JAGUAR by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Jan. 10, 2012

"Despite occasional affecting moments, the plot is essentially thin, unsustained by a cast of larger- than-life, empathy-proof characters. A rare misstep from the accomplished Parker."
A Mexican drug dealer kidnaps the composer wife of an L.A. cop and holds her for a song. Read full book review >
THE BORDER LORDS by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Jan. 11, 2011

"Despite 17 novels ranging from first-rate to extraordinary, Parker has somehow managed not to become a household name, which means enough of you aren't trying."
In the fourth of his ambitious Border series (Iron River, 2010, etc.), Parker pits veteran agent Charlie Hood against errant good guys, vicious bad guys and maybe something in the paranormal guise. Read full book review >
IRON RIVER by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Jan. 5, 2010

"Lacks the seamlessness of Parker's best plotting, but indomitable Charlie is, as always, irresistible. Hard not to warm to a man who—no matter the adversity—insists that 'Hope counts.' "
Deputy Charlie Hood (The Renegades, 2009, etc.) copes with love, war and a baffling being who might be an angel, a demon, conceivably both, or none of the above. Read full book review >
THE RENEGADES by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Feb. 10, 2009

"The pace is leisurely and the plot a bit obvious, but Parker (L.A. Outlaws, 2008, etc.) at three-quarters effectiveness still beats most others at their best."
Further proof that nobody likes a cop who nails a cop. Read full book review >
L.A. OUTLAWS by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Feb. 5, 2008

"All the requisite action-suspense: No one does thriller-with-heart better than Parker."
A legendary outlaw's DNA plays an unlikely role in Parker's latest winner (Storm Runners, 2007, etc.). Read full book review >
STORM RUNNERS by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 1, 2007

"Parker shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald the viewpoint that 'character is action,' which is what makes this author's fiction so intensely readable."
Friendship betrayed, love lost and found and, of course, murder, in Parker's superbly wrought tenth (following The Fallen, 2006, etc.). Read full book review >
THE FALLEN by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 1, 2006

"Deftly plotted, gracefully written and, as usual with this savvy veteran (California Girl, 2004, etc.), it's the lead character you pay your money for. Robbie is another in Parker's growing gallery of wonderfully sympathetic heroes."
Absorbing suspense novel about a young homicide cop to whom everyone speaks in colors. Read full book review >
CALIFORNIA GIRL by T. Jefferson Parker
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

"Love, lust, murder, betrayal, suffering, and redemption all parade by as a brilliant tale-spinner (Cold Pursuit, 2003, etc.) once again has his way with us."
Blazingly pretty at 19, Janelle Vonn was the quintessential California Girl, and all men were drawn to her, including the one who killed her. Read full book review >
COLD PURSUIT by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 2, 2003

"Though Silent Joe won an Edgar in 2001, Parker's never got the respect he deserves. Maybe this engrossing tale of a flawed hero redeemed by suffering—the kind of theme he's always handled so well (Black Water, 2002, etc.)—will bring him a wider audience."
You could make a case that beginning in 1985, with Laguna Heat, Parker has produced a ten-novel skein unsurpassed, perhaps unmatched, by any other contemporary writer of crime fiction. Here, he's at the top of his game with the tale of lonely, near-reclusive Detective Sergeant Tom MacMichael of San Diego Homicide, who gets a call one night that turns his life around. It's from his lieutenant, telling him that Pete Braga's been murdered and MacMichael is to head the investigation. Rich, powerful Braga was a magnet for love and hate who also happened to be the rumored killer of MacMichael's grandfather, a shooting still shrouded in mystery—some say self-defense, some say not. At any rate, MacMichael is a cop with a bedrock belief in objectivity as the sine qua non of the professional investigator. Where the evidence leads MacMichael will follow, he tells himself confidently as he starts sorting through a small army with reason to love and/or hate the tempestuous Braga. Among those he finds, Sally Rainwater—character in her face, secrets in her eyes—and suddenly MacMichael is tested in a way he never expected to be. Because where the evidence leads, of course, is in her direction, and how do you stay objective when you've fallen desperately in love? Read full book review >
BLACK WATER by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 24, 2002

"Parker (Silent Joe, 2001, etc.) scores again with a heroine whose steely toughness is leavened by warmth and vulnerability. It's a pleasure to spend time with her."
The Archie Wildcrafts—young, good-looking, sweet-natured—had joined in a marriage that seemed destined for the long haul. Then suddenly, she's shot dead, and for a while he's nearer dead than alive, a bullet lodged in his brain. Though he beats the odds and survives, the investigators of the Orange County Sheriff's department find the case taking shape in a way they hate, as a murder and an unsuccessful suicide, with the alleged perpetrator, Deputy Archie, one of their own. To Sergeant Merci Rayborn, however, the whole deal screams frame. Yes, there's Gwen's blood on Archie's bathrobe and Archie's fingerprints on the murder weapon, but to Merci, weaned by her mentors on the bedrock idea that "there's a lot more to a homicide case than fingerprints," it's all off-kilter. From the outset, her detective's instincts have seized on an essential truth: Archie loved Gwen and couldn't have killed her. In the meantime, an ambitious, headline-hunting DA, sensing an easy conviction, wants Archie before a grand jury. Merci resists, stalls, maneuvers. Sniffing here and there, she finally gets a whiff of a money trail that leads to a pair of ruthless Russian wiseguys whose impact on Gwen was both surprising and pernicious. But Merci's not their only stalker. Turns out that a pair of vengeful ghosts are along for the ride. Read full book review >
SILENT JOE by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 25, 2001

"For all his taciturnity, Joe makes an eloquent and persuasive action hero. His story could have been pared down without harm, but, still, this is another highly professional score from a savvy veteran (Red Light, 2000, etc.)."
"The Acid Baby," the media dub him when his sociopathic father douses him with battery acid, ravaging half his face. But then little Joe gets lucky. He's adopted by Will and Mary Trona, who nurture, love, and salvage him. Though the emotional and physical scars are there to stay, Joe has become a young man of promise. Predictably shy about his face, Silent Joe is a bit more understated than most, but he's smart, competent, and eager to follow in the footsteps of Will, who was a cop for 20 years before widening his horizons to become a rough-and-tumble politico in California's plush Orange County, a man with powerful friends and dangerous enemies. Though he depends on the adopted son who's become a cop himself, Will has his own penchant for playing each hand close to the vest. And one ominous night, when heavy money is disbursed to enigmatic figures and Will seems less than his confident self, Joe is filled with premonitory unrest. Events prove him right when Will stumbles into an ambush and is gunned down. Joe takes out two of the shooters but knows that the real killers are elsewhere, protected by money and influence. He knows as well—and soon everyone does—that he won't rest until he smokes them out. Read full book review >
RED LIGHT by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 26, 2000

Meet Sergeant Merci Rayborn of the Orange County (California) sheriff's office. She's honest, courageous, clever, determined, quietly desperate, and unforgettable. Introduced by Parker in 1998's The Blue Hour, she is still, two years later, destabilized by what happened to her back then: Her lover was murdered, and in a bloody battle, she gunned down the sociopath who killed him. At work now, she functions with her customary efficiency, but her heart is in deep-freeze, her emotional life comatose. When an exotic young call girl becomes a homicide victim, Merci catches the case. Almost from the first, it's disturbingly clear that the leading suspect will turn out to be a cop. Not just any cop, but Mike McNally, the one Merci's involved with, the one her inner woman has been counting on to wake Sleeping Beauty. The evidence accumulates, and no matter how she squirms to dodge the implications, Merci's investigation keeps pointing to Mike—and then, suddenly, not just to him but to other colleagues she respects and trusts, and finally to an ex-cop she loves: her father. Clinging to her sense of what matters most, Merci finally cracks her case, only to be confronted with choices painful enough to make her wish she hadn't. An admirably constructed police procedural that's also an unsparing examination of a gallant woman's search for a moral code worth the commitment. Read full book review >
THE BLUE HOUR by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 5, 1999

Parker's seventh California thriller (Where Serpents Lie, 1998, etc.) leads with a bright new twist: the hero is Tim Hess, a retired, divorced, and childless cop with an apparent death sentence of cancer hanging over him as he goes about tracking down a serial killer. Meanwhile, he's keeping company with—and taking orders from—good-looking, right uppity Detective Merci Rayborn, who can be one big pain and has already marked her way up the ladder of promotions. The two of them want to find the Purse Snatcher, a kidnaping slayer of beautiful Laguna County women. But since there are no bodies, only the women's purses lying in blood, might they still be alive? As often happens with Parker novels, the main plot has familiar echoes, but that hardly matters when the reader is guaranteed a richly metaphoric and suspenseful ride to the end, especially as Hess's deepening passion for Merci gives him ever more reason to live. It's safe to say that Parker has never before come up with as moving an ending as he unwinds here, while titillating us along the way with a psycho whose only fault is his irresistible fixation on giving gorgeous women eternal beauty—just as the hormone treatments he's been given to reduce his sexual cravings have given him a pair of breasts. Ah, Parker in top form. Read full book review >
WHERE SERPENTS LIE by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Feb. 1, 1998

Another intelligently written, well-researched genre clone from Parker (The Triggerman's Dance, 1996, etc.), whose skill at mimicking (and, at times, improving on) B-moviestyle formula fiction can be marvelous, when it isn't so annoyingly unoriginal. Terry Naughton is a manic, divorced police detective, head of Orange County's newly created Crimes Against Youth Division. An almost-but-not-quite-recovered drunk, Naughton is haunted by the death of his young son, a death he feels responsible for. In another part of sunny southern California, Michael Hypok, a blandly cordial video-camera operator for a dating service, is also a perversely obsessive child pornographer who's lately taken to climbing through bedroom windows and snatching young girls, photographing them for his own purposes, then returning them unharmed—except psychologically. Parker gives each of these familiar types a wicked spin: Naughton, who's having an affair with TV news journalist Donna Mason, is looking for a way out of his current live-in relationship with the ex-wife of his loud and boorish superior, Lieutenant Ishmael Jordan; and Hypok ("The Horridus"), who dreams of becoming reborn as a reptile, keeps a den of deadly pet snakes that would just love to devour one of his human captives. Meanwhile, the police procedures are impeccable, the writing blessedly lucid, offering fun facts about snakes, computerized image enhancement, and the righteous sleaze and suburban complacency that make Orange County a Day-Glo crucible of vice and good intentions. Parker's plotting, however, is blatantly derivative—in a Silence of the Lambs vein. There are also gross-outs for people who hate snakes, and a regrettably dumb climax (one of three) in which Hypok scampers about in a snakeskin body suit. A predictable stew whose superior ingredients taste like last week's leftovers. Read full book review >
THE TRIGGERMAN'S DANCE by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: July 4, 1996

An overcooked revenge fantasy from a sometime (some other time) master of the genre (Summer of Fear, 1993, etc.). When intern Rebecca Harris was shot down in mistake for her boss, Orange County Journal columnist Susan Baum, she left two inconsolable mourners behind: her fiance, FBI agent Joshua Weinstein, and her secret lover, Journal reporter John Menden. Six months later, Menden's retired to a small-town paper and a dilapidated trailer, but Weinstein hasn't wasted his time: He's satisfied himself that Rebecca was killed by Vann Holt, a Feebee-turned-private-security-king, who was out for revenge against Baum's public defense of the man who killed Holt's own son and left his wife paralyzed. Weinstein, who doesn't have enough on Holt to put him away, wants Menden to meetcute with the target, worm his way into Liberty Ridge, the Holt compound, and get the goods on him. So Menden, via an elaborate FBI-scripted scenario, saves Holt's eligible daughter Valerie from a fate worse than death, runs the gauntlet of suspicious underlings at Liberty Ridge, and finds things getting entirely too cozy. Carolyn Holt is convinced he's her dead son; Valerie is coming on to him like a house afire; and soon Meriden is ablaze, too. Meantime, Holt's thuggish assistant Lane Fargo is upping his surveillance on the interloper, and the FBI is warned that they have only six more days to close the case before they're pulled off. Does any of this sound familiar? All right, the original stroke here—the tear-soaked alliance between Weinstein and Menden—is handled with all the intensity you'd expect from Parker; but it isn't enough to justify the ill-advised presumption, signaled by gallons of pressure on our man Menden, that we don't all know exactly where this is all headed. Well-turned-out, if you can ignore the striking lack of originality. But it does seem unwise to pit such familiar fare against summer reruns on TV. Read full book review >
SUMMER OF FEAR by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: July 30, 1993

In three novels, Parker (Pacific Beat; Little Saigon; Laguna Beach) has proven himself a master of the California thriller. So he can be forgiven for this ill-crafted amalgam of serial-killer chiller and tragic love story. Parker's narrator here is Russ Monroe, true-crime author and reporter for the Laguna Journal. As the story begins, two calamities plague Monroe: the slow death of his wife, Isabella, from a brain tumor; and the murder of his ex-lover, supermodel Amber Mae Wilson, whose savaged body Monroe finds in her home. Amber's death bears the hallmarks of the serial killer known as the Midnight Eye—except that, just before Monroe entered Amber's home, he spied Amber's ex-husband, Laguna homicide cop Martin Parish, wiping fingerprints off the outside gate. When the crime isn't reported, Monroe returns to the killing ground and finds the body missing but Parish lurking about. Monroe suspects Parish of the crime, while Parish claims innocence and accuses, then tries to frame, Monroe: Both are in Amber's will. But soon Amber herself surfaces—the victim was in fact her look-alike sister, Alice—even as Monroe and Amber's daughter turns up (did she help do away with Alice?), and as the Midnight Eye takes to calling Monroe at home, ranting about his crimes. Meanwhile, Isabella deteriorates—and endures an operation—as Monroe grieves for her and for his inability to save her, despite his pleasure in helping to i.d. the Midnight Eye, who escapes to N.Y.C. And then yet another possible Alice-killer surfaces—and he owns a copy of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.... A soggy, slow-moving fog—out of which, however, the subplot of the writer and his doomed wife glows with heart-stirring radiance. Read full book review >
PACIFIC BEAT by T. Jefferson Parker
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 28, 1991

Mirroring the title of his marvelous debut novel, Laguna Heat (1985), Parker's third California thriller—after the uneven Little Saigon (1988)—is a moodily intense affair: the introspective and involving tale of a man who searches for his sister's killer among the citizens of Newport Beach. Cop-turned-treasure-hunter Jim Weir is glad to be back in his hometown after serving time on a frame-up in a Mexican jail. His older sister, Ann, greets him with good news—at 39, she's finally pregnant—and Newport cop Ray Cruz, her husband and Jim's best pal, is also there to share the joy. But that night Ann's body is found on the beach, stabbed 28 times. Who killed her? A local drunk reports seeing a cop car at the crime-scene, so at first Jim, hired by police chief Brian Dennison, digs into some local cops. Soon, however, a wild-card suspect arises: Horton Goins, who's just been released from the mental asylum he spent years in for killing a girl, and who (we know but Jim doesn't) now possesses Ann's missing diary—which confesses that she was pregnant not by husband Ray but by David Cantrell, a Trump-like developer and the father 24 years ago of her apparently aborted child. Did Cantrell kill Ann? He certainly seems responsible for toxic-dumping in local waters, key to an entangled subplot that plunks Jim in the middle of a ecology war between his activist mom and his girlfriend Becky, a mayoral candidate, and Cantrell and cop-chief Dennison, Becky's electroral opponent. Two scenes of stunning violence punctuate the narrative as Jim begins to investigate Cantrell and as the cops focus on Goins—whose ultimate identity proves as shocking, and as logical, a revelation as that of the real killer. A hothouse of full-bloomed characters and ripe emotions. Not as much fun as Heat—the action is too slowly deliberate, and sometimes overwhelmed by introspection—but a wiser, more mature work, resonant, literate, and powerful. Read full book review >
LITTLE SAIGON by T. Jefferson Parker
Released: Sept. 27, 1988

Parker slides into a gentle sophomore slump with his second mystery thriller. For all its deep characters and exotic action, this byzantine tale of Vietnam-seeded intrigue—set like his first in Orange County, Cal.—lacks the pungent ironies and manual-tight police procedures that made Laguna Heat such a fabulous and popular read. Part of the problem is that, despite his bumbling charms, hero Chuck Frye, ex-reporter and surfing star, scion of Laguna's wealthiest family, simply isn't as gripping a hero as Laguna Heat's cop hero. Parker compensates somewhat, however, by setting Chuck's adventures mostly within Orange County's huge and vastly intriguing Vietnamese community. Chuck's link to this clannish brood is lovely Li, Vietnamese wife of his older brother, Benny, war hero—he lacks the legs to prove it—and ace real-estate developer. When Li, a folk heroine to the community for her freedom songs, is kidnapped during a fete, the Frye family galvanizes to get her back. Trouble for Chuck is, Benny and his tyrannical dad just want him to stay out of the way: after all, he was the one swimming with little sister when she drowned 20 years before. That burden of guilt impels Chuck to search for Li, and before long he's deep in a self-made mess, finding and then losing the Vietnamese teen hood possibly behind the snatch, losing a videotape Benny's asked him to stash, and landing in jail when the local cops decide he's just too meddlesome. An affair with the new blond on the block soothes Chuck for a bit, but soon he jumps back into the muck, digging up evidence of a plot by old family friends and Vietnamese gangsters to use stolen monies to fund a real-estate deal, and finally unearthing Li's real kidnapper—a freedom-fighter-turned-commie betrayed by Benny in Vietnam. Par for California thrillers, here the sins of the past ravage the present, and after final bloodbaths Chuck has lost his brother but refound his pride, that blond, and entrÉe into his family. The Chandleresque plotting is so coiled as to nearly implode at times, and Chuck's redemption is too expected; withal, Parker remains a vivid stylist and an ultra-acute observer of California ways, with this uneven but still memorable work further proof that he's no flash in the pan, but a glowing fixture in the thriller firmament. Read full book review >
LAGUNA HEAT by T. Jefferson Parker
Released: Sept. 13, 1985

Knockout debut by a Southern California cloth-of-Chandler thriller writer who keeps his metaphors tingling amid smart dialogue and whose style already has the ripe, heady grip of a salted margarita. Tom Shepard, 32, is the new homicide detective in Orange County's wealthy, tennis- and boat-loving Laguna Beach, whose 100,000 population graphs a .5 annual murder rate—or one body every two years. Not much work for the hometown returnee—until the Fire Killer appears, a murderer who announces his coming with gift Bibles to his victims, each book's title page red-lettered with an aphorism such as LIARS BURN AND LITTLE LIARS BURN FIRST, and who then pours turpentine over their bodies and ignites them. Newly divorced by his upward-mobile actressy wife, Shepard is impotent and drinking far, far too much following his being hounded out of the Los Angeles Police Department by the press for having killed a 16-year-old black teenager who had just stabbed Shepard's partner. Complicating his return to Laguna is the fact that his father, now a TV preacher with a drive-in movie church, is that town's former police chief. When Tom was only four months old, his father Wade found his tennis friend Azul Mercante raping Tom's mother, and in a fight over Wade's pistol she was killed and Mercante later given a long jail term. Or was she being raped? Now, when a heavy-drinking old stable-owner and gambler is found with his head bashed in, a thousand dollars in bills stuffed down his throat and his outer body burned black, Shepard approaches the victim's chilly daughter Jane for help. Once he overcomes her archness, he begins uncovering motiveless malignancies that seem to lead him directly into his own past, his father's earlier alcoholism and born-again recovery and that tie to a fabulous beach club. . . While the story is grippingly plotted and has an aura of ancestral horror, its real hook comes from brilliantly original dialogue and Shepard's reactions to the varied violence he meets: he bleeds, gets concussions, is repelled and made watery-kneed by both the dead and the living and is always intensely present on the page. He's not at all sure he's cut out for this work. Not the least of the story's merits is its utter familiarity with police work and the absorbing logic of detection. Then there are the pungently defined, sometimes movingly human characters (especially his father, a solid-gold Christian in a Sophoclean darkness), the mid-August heat and glittery scene-painting of chic Laguna Beach under turquoise California skies. Writerly and memorable. Read full book review >