Lawman father of a murdered child turns vigilante: a near-miss thriller about revenge and redemption.
In a gripping opener, the Rackleys—Tim, a US Marshall, Dray a deputy sheriff—receive news of their daughter’s murder while they’re arranging the seven candles on her surprise birthday cake. Within hours, the Moorpark Police (it’s an LA suburb) have a man in custody, semiretarded Roger Kindell, against whom the physical evidence is overwhelming. Kindell confesses, and Dray’s deputy sheriff pals offer Tim a collegial opportunity: “I got a throw-down,” one of them says helpfully. An emotional basket case, Tim is tempted but finally resists—though later, when Kindell goes free on a technicality, he experiences intense and bitter regret. Enter ex-cop Franklin Dumone, enigmatic harbinger of second chances, with a kind of Faustian bargain: If Tim will join a certain ad hoc group, Kindell could be his again. It’s a motley enough bunch, six people who’ve all been up-close and personal to terrible crimes only to see the perpetrators dodge between the laws. They’re called the Commission and see themselves as a highly efficient, totally incorruptible judge and jury dedicated to redressing appalling miscarriages of justice. And they’ve tapped Tim to be their executioner. Ordinarily, Tim can suss out a vigilante no matter how dissimulating the sheep’s clothing, but just now, blinkered by rage and grief, he allows the feral in him to be controlling. His wife doesn’t like him for it, and neither does his best friend and partner. In time, Tim himself will see the thing clearly, but by then the die will have been cast. Or will it?
A brilliant beginning goes draggy and rhetoric-impeded. Hurwitz (Minutes to Burn, 2001, etc.), wanting to write a novel of ideas that’s also a fast-paced thriller, gets hung up between the two, as have many other good writers before him.