Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Renegades

Author T. Jefferson Parker has a theory that outlaws, in the spirit of the old American West, still exist. Parker, in fact, not only contends that outlaws still exist - his theory includes the belief that, just as in gunslinger days, many of today’s most notorious outlaws spend some portion of their lives working as law enforcement officers. In The Renegades, his follow-up to L.A. Outlaws, Parker tells the story of two modern day outlaws, both of whom just happen to be Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs.

Deputy Charlie Hood is one of the good guys. He is somewhat of a loner who prefers to ride the roads at night, even in his off-time, as he grows accustomed to his recent assignment to the county’s Antelope Valley. Charlie would, in fact, be just as happy never to be assigned a partner, but he soon finds himself working with Terry Laws, a man known to his fellow deputies as “Mr. Wonderful.” After Mr. Wonderful is assassinated while he and Charlie are on a routine call, Charlie accepts a transfer to Internal Affairs so that he can get to the bottom of the murder. Perhaps, he thinks, Mr. Wonderful was not really so wonderful after all.

Getting to the truth about his partner’s murder will not be easy – or safe. In the process of figuring out what Mr. Wonderful was up to, Charlie will make some ruthless men on both sides of the border nervous enough to want him dead. And they will do their best to make exactly that happen.

There is a good deal of dramatic action in The Renegades, but Parker has chosen to tell his story in a straightforward manner that offers few real surprises. Once the main characters have been fleshed-out in the minds of readers - and the plotline set in full motion - their ultimate fates are too easily predictable. Part of the fun in reading a police thriller of this type is trying to guess what will happen next as the hero gets into deeper and deeper trouble. Surprisingly, however, that fun is somewhat lessened when, as in this case, the reader always guesses correctly.

The nine-CD audio book version of The Renegades is read to good effect by David Colacci, a man whose voice is likely to sound very familiar to fans of audio books. Colacci’s differentiation of tone, accent, and cadence make the numerous characters relatively easy to follow despite the book’s frequent changes between first and third person perspectives. Not having read L.A. Outlaws, I am uncertain of how wise it is to read this sequel first. Jefferson does make an effort to repeat the key points from the first book to help his readers understand just how Charlie Hood turned into the man he is today, but it is very possible that readers with more background will experience The Renegades very differently than readers coming to it cold.

Rated at: 3.5

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