Ex-cops, killers, and junkies collide in and around San Francisco in this thriller.
In Pitts' (Knuckleball, 2017, etc.) novel, 20-year-old Steven suffers a brutal beating by men who steal his weed and leave him lying on gravel in the small town of Willits, California. Quinn McFetridge, a stranger, offers him a ride and a cigarette, but his motives aren’t altruistic. Just out of prison, he tricks Steven into helping him rescue a girl named Teresa, who he claims is his daughter, from living with a speed freak in San Francisco. En route to the city, the ex-con and Steven stop at a vineyard owned by someone Quinn calls an old friend; soon he’s a dead one. Cokehead and ex-cop Maurice Tremblay finds the vineyard owner with a puddle of blood “still growing around his body.” Tremblay discerns Quinn is the murderer. The two share a complicated back story, and for reasons yet unknown to the reader, they both want to find Teresa. Tremblay works for Ricardo Alvarez—aka Richard Allen, “a Mexican cartel guy, supposedly gone legit”—whose tentacles reach into San Francisco’s “City Hall and upward.” Widowed, retired cop Carl Bradley, assisting in finding the vintner’s killer, contacts some sources, and then he too heads to the city, looking for Quinn, Tremblay, and Teresa. Steven finds her among addicts in the Mission District. Frail-looking and bruised from shooting up, Teresa connects with Steven. They go on the run, especially from Quinn, who brutally murders anyone who can identify him. From here, the pace of the lively tale accelerates, and the reason why Teresa is hunted and the truth about her identity are revealed. The characters are well-defined: bored, lonely Carl, devoted to his dog, Buford; Quinn, with an appetite for steak and an appreciation of the power of a muscle car; and fleshy-cheeked Tremblay, a devotee of loose women and top-shelf liquor. The author’s attention to small details is a big plus—a mattress bends under Tremblay’s weight; a reporter’s eyeglasses look opaque with fingerprints—but identifying the make of every vehicle stolen or involved in a chase pockmarks the engrossing text.
An absorbing and highly charged story of violent payback with considerable collateral damage.