A young Marine returns from Afghanistan to find his small California hometown almost as dangerous as the threats he faced from the Taliban.
Twenty-two-year-old Patrick Norris is slowly adjusting to civilian life in Fallbrook, California, but with Camp Pendleton’s close proximity—and his own vivid memories—it’s hard to leave the military behind. His family’s avocado farm recently suffered major losses after a fire, likely arson, tore through the surrounding area, one of the worst arson blazes in recent history. His father, Archie, isn’t sure any of the trees will survive, and he’s been unable to get bank loans to shore up the family’s dwindling finances. Patrick’s re-entry into civilian life is contrasted with his perpetual screw-up of an older brother, 26-year-old Ted, whose “life had been a series of quiet failures.” Useless at the farm, Ted recently got expelled from college for drawing an inflammatory cartoon of the town’s mayor. It’s no wonder he finds solace with Cade Magnus, an outspoken white supremacist who’s recently come back to Fallbrook and attracts loners and social outliers to his group, the Rogue Wolves. Parker (The Famous and the Dead, 2013, etc.) can’t seem to decide which brother is the more interesting hero—or antihero—and the split focus unfortunately halves the dramatic tension: Whenever we linger on Ted’s increasingly creepy behavior, it seems like we should be paying attention to Patrick, and vice versa. The final showdown—between both the characters and the whims of nature—is predictable and flat.
Parker’s first foray out of his established—and award-winning—crime-fiction niche is a disappointment, despite some compelling subject matter.