Although the public cheers on the vigilantes who have splashily eliminated several of the miscreants on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, Alex Brandon, a homicide detective with the LA Sheriff’s Department, isn’t quite so comfortable with their efforts. Murder, after all, is murder, even if the victims deserved to die. To compound the problem, the FBI is bickering with the LASD over who has jurisdiction; Brandon’s cantankerous law-and-order partner Ciara Morton continues to antagonize cops and suspects alike; and someone is leaking information to the vigilantes that gives a new edge to the term Most Wanted, getting the free-lancers to the alleged perps before the cops arrive. Soon the only one left on the FBI list is not-quite-so-bad-guy Gabe Taggert, who’s hiding out somewhere while his sister Meghan, his old buddy Kit Logan, Brandon, and the bloodthirsty vigilantes all compete to find him. The chase leads to the Sedgewick School for problem kids, where the bell tower has been rigged with explosives and the real targets of the vigilantes, Kit and Brandon in all their gore-soaked pasts, ultimately confront their demons.
Burke (see above), who’s considerably less sanguinary in her Irene Kelly series (Flight, 2001, etc.), trowels on the torture, sexual depravities, and child abuse. In between Grand Guignol moments, Brandon, his uncle, his nephew, and a scruffy pooch develop some interesting relationships.