Just how monstrous can the targets of the California Department of Fish and Game be? John Marquez’s fourth case (Dead Game, 2005, etc.) provides a surprising answer.
Before he joined Fish and Game’s Special Operations Unit, Marquez was supervisor of the DEA’s Group 5. His career flamed out with the execution of informant Billy Takado and the deaths of three of his federal colleagues, one of them apparently taking kickbacks from Emrahain Stoval, the fearsome money man for the Salazar drug cartel. After being eased out of the DEA and retreating from his affair with agent Sheryl Javits, Marquez married his sweetheart Katherine, settled into his role as stepfather to her daughter Maria, and found work hunting poachers. Now, just as he’s hot on the trail of bighorn hunter Patrick Maitland, Ted Desault, his old enemy at the FBI, approaches him with an extravagant offer. Certain that Stoval has fingers in many pies—cocaine smuggling, illegal trophy hunting, trafficking in animal parts—Desault wants to mount an all-out effort against him. He offers Marquez a one-year assignment as a Task Force Officer, “the James Bond of wildlife enforcement,” whose job is to track Stoval wherever he goes and nail him on whatever charges he can. Just to sweeten what looks like a rotten deal, Marquez realizes that Patrick Maitland is really Stoval.
Russell’s narrative is so drastically compressed that you can barely take in the many action sequences, betrayals and violent deaths in this breathless survey of how much worse international trafficking has grown over the past 20 years.