PACIFIC BEAT by T. Jefferson Parker


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Mirroring the title of his marvelous debut novel, Laguna Heat (1985), Parker's third California thriller--after the uneven Little Saigon (1988)--is a moodily intense affair: the introspective and involving tale of a man who searches for his sister's killer among the citizens of Newport Beach. Cop-turned-treasure-hunter Jim Weir is glad to be back in his hometown after serving time on a frame-up in a Mexican jail. His older sister, Ann, greets him with good news--at 39, she's finally pregnant--and Newport cop Ray Cruz, her husband and Jim's best pal, is also there to share the joy. But that night Ann's body is found on the beach, stabbed 28 times. Who killed her? A local drunk reports seeing a cop car at the crime-scene, so at first Jim, hired by police chief Brian Dennison, digs into some local cops. Soon, however, a wild-card suspect arises: Horton Goins, who's just been released from the mental asylum he spent years in for killing a girl, and who (we know but Jim doesn't) now possesses Ann's missing diary--which confesses that she was pregnant not by husband Ray but by David Cantrell, a Trump-like developer and the father 24 years ago of her apparently aborted child. Did Cantrell kill Ann? He certainly seems responsible for toxic-dumping in local waters, key to an entangled subplot that plunks Jim in the middle of a ecology war between his activist mom and his girlfriend Becky, a mayoral candidate, and Cantrell and cop-chief Dennison, Becky's electroral opponent. Two scenes of stunning violence punctuate the narrative as Jim begins to investigate Cantrell and as the cops focus on Goins--whose ultimate identity proves as shocking, and as logical, a revelation as that of the real killer. A hothouse of full-bloomed characters and ripe emotions. Not as much fun as Heat--the action is too slowly deliberate, and sometimes overwhelmed by introspection--but a wiser, more mature work, resonant, literate, and powerful.
Pub Date: June 28th, 1991
ISBN: 0312927924
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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