You could make a case that beginning in 1985, with Laguna Heat, Parker has produced a ten-novel skein unsurpassed, perhaps unmatched, by any other contemporary writer of crime fiction. Here, he’s at the top of his game with the tale of lonely, near-reclusive Detective Sergeant Tom MacMichael of San Diego Homicide, who gets a call one night that turns his life around. It’s from his lieutenant, telling him that Pete Braga’s been murdered and MacMichael is to head the investigation. Rich, powerful Braga was a magnet for love and hate who also happened to be the rumored killer of MacMichael’s grandfather, a shooting still shrouded in mystery—some say self-defense, some say not. At any rate, MacMichael is a cop with a bedrock belief in objectivity as the sine qua non of the professional investigator. Where the evidence leads MacMichael will follow, he tells himself confidently as he starts sorting through a small army with reason to love and/or hate the tempestuous Braga. Among those he finds, Sally Rainwater—character in her face, secrets in her eyes—and suddenly MacMichael is tested in a way he never expected to be. Because where the evidence leads, of course, is in her direction, and how do you stay objective when you’ve fallen desperately in love?
Though Silent Joe won an Edgar in 2001, Parker’s never got the respect he deserves. Maybe this engrossing tale of a flawed hero redeemed by suffering—the kind of theme he’s always handled so well (Black Water, 2002, etc.)—will bring him a wider audience.