Friendship betrayed, love lost and found and, of course, murder, in Parker’s superbly wrought tenth (following The Fallen, 2006, etc.).
Plus one of those wonderful opening sentences that can stand the hair up on the back of the neck: “Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son.” The boy’s name is Michael Tavarez—smart, talented, handsome and profoundly amoral, though that facet of his character is late-blooming. On the day they meet, they are both innocent, relatively uncomplicated freshmen—young Stromsoe eager to be the drum major of the Santa Ana High marching band, young Tavarez a would-be clarinetist. The two are drawn to each other. And then there’s Hallie, the pretty, vibrant, restless girl. Maybe it’s she who’s the primary cause of the hostility that grows between them, but probably not. Probably, it was there from the beginning, a combustible waiting to be set off. But they follow separate paths—Stromsoe into the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, where he becomes a clever, effective deputy; Tavarez into the Mexican Mafia, of which he becomes a powerful and ruthless chieftain. They keep careful track of each other, however, and as the years pass, what was once friendship transmogrifies into the kind of implacable enmity that must always be, in a certain sense, defining. Tavarez’s lover is killed during a manhunt spearheaded by Stromsoe, who accepts the blame for that unintended consequence. When Tavarez extracts a brutal revenge, Stromsoe wants an eye for an eye. And so it goes between them—death the only conceivable separator.
Parker shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald the viewpoint that “character is action,” which is what makes this author’s fiction so intensely readable.