Oldham tells the story of an ex-cop in Arizona who takes the law into his own hands after the system fails him in this debut thriller.
After a brutal rape and carjacking leaves two teenagers paralyzed for life, Tucson police detective Dave Roberts is sure that the men responsible will be in jail for 20 years. Imagine his surprise when, after only 14 years, prison overcrowding leads to the early release of one of the men. The convict, Jerry Harwell, is anything but reformed: “He knew he could never walk the straight line as his attorneys and relatives expected and wanted him to do. He might try, but he was a criminal, would always be one, and no amount of therapy would change that.” Retired and now operating his own restaurant in Scottsdale, Roberts is furious that the justice system has failed to adequately punish Harwell, who Roberts thought got off with a light sentence in the first place. The incident convinces Roberts to go full vigilante. He and one of his friends from the restaurant business, an ex-Marine, begin to operate outside the law to bring criminals to justice. Though this new occupation places great strains on the quiet life Roberts has built for himself and his wife, Rebecca, it may be the only way to ensure Harwell can never repeat the crime he committed 14 years ago. Oldham writes in an easy-to-read prose, and the story moves along at a fast clip, though in tone and complexity it sometimes reads like a middle-grade novel about a group of gun-toting retirees in Arizona. While the premise sets up an intriguing question as to the limitations of punishment and forgiveness, the author avoids exploring the issue by portraying Roberts as a fundamentally decent person (despite his extralegal activities) and Harwell as a basically villainous one. The result is a rather Manichean revenge fantasy that never seriously questions the ethics of Roberts’ actions. Such a story may entertain readers with a similarly black-and-white worldview, but those desiring more nuance should look elsewhere.
A straightforward tale about a retired police detetive getting even with an old enemy.