In the fourth of his ambitious Border series (Iron River, 2010, etc.), Parker pits veteran agent Charlie Hood against errant good guys, vicious bad guys and maybe something in the paranormal guise.
Blowdown, the ATF operation aimed at coping with nonstop wickedness sourced south of the border, is not exactly overmatched, but Charlie is unsettled. He senses a day of reckoning. Entrepreneurial no-goods like the remorseless Carlos Herredia make formidable enemies. In defense of a flourishing drug trade, his well-armed, well-trained minions will murder at the drop of a sombrero, and it worries Charlie that close friend and colleague Sean Ozburn has been undercover among them longer than is feasible. And then suddenly there is tangible evidence suggesting Sean might have gone over, evidence persuasive enough to shake even Seliah, Sean’s loving and endlessly loyal wife. The fact is Sean’s behavior has undergone a sea change. He says and does things that to Charlie—to Seliah as well—seem wildly out of character, so much so that the idea of demonic possession occurs at least fleetingly to all three. “Maybe we’re really not normal people,” a panicky Sean says to his wife. Meanwhile internecine warfare between cutthroat gangs has intensified, catching Sean in the middle. The southern border becomes a killing field as barbarian chieftains struggle for ascendancy, while to Parker the war itself becomes a metaphor for a civil society struggling to survive. An excess of subplots softens the middle a bit, but this is a rich book, packed with action, violence, love, lust, flashes of wit, moments of poignancy and the occasional sharp geopolitical insight.
Despite 17 novels ranging from first-rate to extraordinary, Parker has somehow managed not to become a household name, which means enough of you aren’t trying.