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Parker’s ‘Border Lords’ gets off to slow start

“The Border Lords” by T. Jefferson Parker, the newest Charlie Hood novel, brings many of the characters back from “Iron River” and “L.A. Outlaws.”

The central focus is on undercover ATF agent Sean Ozburn (aka Sean Garvas) and his desire to seek retribution against the Mexican drug cartels who now have a foothold in Los Angeles and San Diego. Things start going askew when Sean kills three cartel assassins in cold blood. Though these men were working for the North Baja Cartel, the AFT still has to go after Sean and bring him in.

Charlie Hood, who’s still on loan to the ATF from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, is given the job of tracking Sean down before the cartel figures out what he’s up to and goes after him and his wife. Sean, however, has no intention of going to jail and instigates a plan to have the two major cartels fighting each other so that he can go out in a blaze of glory.

What isn’t discovered until two-thirds of the way through the novel is that Sean and his wife are suffering from a lethal disease that’s affecting their judgment and their sense of invulnerability. It makes Sean reckless. Charlie has to try and save him before he succumbs to the disease or is killed by the drug pushers.

Unlike with “Iron River,” I had a hard time getting into “The Border Lords.” I’m not sure what the problem was. The novel is well-written and the characters vividly drawn; yet, it took almost 200 pages before I found myself hooked. I don’t usually give a novel that long to grab me. I do know that I kept seeing Dog the Bounty Hunter in the role of Sean Ozburn, which may have been part of the problem. Though the character of Sean is taller and heavier in weight than Dog, the long blond hair, dark sunglasses and leather vest kept the bounty hunter in the forefront of my mind.

For me, things began to finally take off in the novel when Mike Fennigan reappeared and as more information about the suspicious Father Joe Leftwich was revealed. I still can’t guess where Parker is heading with this particular character, but I certainly like Mike and want to know if he’s full of BS or if he’s actually a representative of the devil. Like “Iron River,” the character of Mike Fennigan adds a touch of the supernatural to the story and makes you ponder the man and his history.

Allison Murietta’s son, Bradley Jones (“L.A. Outlaws” and “Iron River”) is back, too. Bradley is now working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, playing both sides of the law and making a ton of money from the North Baja Cartel. Eventually, if this series continues, Jones and Hood will have to confront each other. It’s a given. Though Hood loved Allison, Bradley still holds him responsible for his mother’s death. Hood likes and admires Bradley, but won’t have any problem taking him down if the situation calls for it.

I still think that Parker should bring back Joe Trona from his novel “Silent Joe” and have him team up with Charlie Hood to go after the bad guys. Joe Trona is a true hero who packs not one, but three Colt .45 semiautomatics whenever he steps out the door. He’s also a master of the martial arts. He and Charlie Hood could do some serious damage to the cartels, if given half a chance.

Fortunately, the last third of “The Border Lords” won me over. That’s when Charlie Hood’s character took a more dominant role in the story, juggling three or four plot lines, and then bringing the novel to a somewhat successful resolution.

All of Parker’s novels are good reads, though some are better than others. He certainly creates a beautiful, dangerous landscape in the form of Southern California and what’s happening there with the influx of drugs and violent death. I have to also say that I’m interested in seeing what happens next to Charlie Hood, Bradley Jones and Mike Fennigan. They seem to share a destiny with each other that’s slowly coming to a head for better or worse.

Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas “The Encounter” and “The Tunnels,” both of which can be purchased at Amazon’s Kindle Store for 99 cents each.

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