I sort of hated this novel. That isn’t to say it’s not well-written, but I felt manipulated all the way through, from the lurid, TMI sex scenes to the rather unbelievable scenario of a possible mastermind-behind-the-scenes. The set-up is straightforward enough, ATF undercover agent Sean Ozburn gone renegade in his dealings with the Baja Cartel, Agent Charlie Hood trying to bring his man in before more damage is done to Sean’s career.
But larger-than-life Ozburn isn’t having it, a man on a mission, a crusade against evil. Even his equally stunning wife, Selia, is uncooperative, guarding her private communication with Sean but increasingly aware that something is terribly wrong with her husband. We know this because the couple meets clandestinely in hotels near the border, where they engage in orgasmic marathons without ever coming up for air or food.
The background to this sexual hyperactivity and Sean’s newfound mission is the usual ugly border violence - drug cartels fighting for a foothold in LA, Ozburn brokering a deal that is full of pitfalls and the bad faith of untrustworthy drug dealers: “Pride ran deep in these men, he thought. Savages all.” Add in a shady new LA Sheriff’s Department officer craving media attention and a secret fortune for his efforts and a meddler who strikes a fatal blow to a happy couple’s future, and you have a bizarre mix of drugs, crime, superstition and strained loyalty.
Although he does it for a specific reason, Parker’s overindulgence in excruciatingly detailed bedroom scenes between Sean and Selia is annoying - except maybe to adolescent boys - his dependence on hot female characters tedious as well, from Sean’s golden wife to the LASD officer’s gorgeous commander and his musician wife who is both Madonna and whore (“an angel lashed to a Harley”).
The juxtaposition of gritty reality, life-and-death situations and the steamy love scenes is jarring, as though Parker has the ability to tell a riveting story but the inability to constrain his middle-aged libido. Hence, my ambivalence - including the fact that, while I disliked the manipulation, I did finish the book. This author has a solid reputation in this genre, although this is my first foray into his work. I am equally ambivalent about whether I would spend time on another of his crime novels.