FBI agent Jack Harper has no choice but to solve a kidnapping after Harper’s wanna-be girlfriend, Michelle Wu, car thief and chop-shop expert, telephones that her sister is missing.
In Ward's (Total Immunity, 2009, etc.) latest, Michelle is in Santa Fe visiting sister Jennifer, a nurse at Blue Wolf Lodge, a posh New Age health resort. Jack is anticipating two weeks off, maybe with a relaxing fishing trip to Baja California. But Jack cannot refuse Michelle. Ever ambitious, Michelle also intended to meet Lucky Avila in Santa Fe. Lucky leads the dope-dealing, hard-riding Sons of Satan biker gang. Michelle thought a hookup with Lucky would add to her illicit chop-shop cash-flow. Jennifer unsuspectingly tagged along, and the sisters met Lucky high on his own product. Lucky proposed a menage á trois, and Michelle’s refusal came at knife point. Later Jennifer goes missing. Michelle suspects revenge. Jack hits town, sneaks into Lucky’s El Coyote motel compound but doesn’t find Jennifer. Jack confronts Lucky, who hints Jennifer may have been taken as raw material for the sex trade. That sends Jack to the Jackalope, a brothel run by the Jesters, another cycle gang. Ward loves odd characters. Lucky’s sidekick, the massive, slow-witted Zollie, has a pet javelina named Ole Big. Jester chief Pancho Flores runs the bordello but spouts sex-as-liberation jive. The deceptively vigorous Alex Williams heads Blue Wolf, where enough money buys tai chi, plastic surgery and Fountain of Youth chemistry. There are subplots, one featuring a strong-arm thief named Johnny Z, who preys on the elderly and ends up double-crossed. The other, not relevant to what’s happening in Santa Fe, finds Jack’s teenage son, Kevin, seduced into a torrid affair with a perverted but beautiful older librarian, a dalliance tacked on as if Ward wanted to use notes for a book not worth developing.
Crime fiction, yes, but crime fiction with a macabre, “too much is never enough,” edge-of-believability resolution.