These days, Tres Navarre has settled into a bit of a routine: visit his girlfriend, Maia, up in Austin, take care of his resident ex-FBI housemate, take a PI job here and there, try not to get killed in the process. It’s Christmastime and Tres has had a bad week, when his old friend Ralph Arguello shows up at Tres’ back door shaking, covered in blood, and accused of being his wife’s (Sergeant Ana DeLeon) shooter. Of course there’s only one thing our very loyal (and kind of reckless) PI can do: help him.
That makes Tres a fugitive from the law: he and Ralph have 48 hours to figure out who shot Ana and solve a cold case from 1987. Because the two are inevitably connected. This, of course, involves getting the help of a notorious San Antonio mob boss, Guy White, who also happens to be the father of the murder victim in the 1987 case.
Interestingly enough, Tres is more of a pawn in this book than an actual participant. It’s Maia who does all the legwork, getting the information, and is the one who solves both crimes. She’s the one who has the intense face-down with the suspect, who puts the puzzle pieces together while Tres and Ralph are running around creating a nice diversion while trying to save their necks. I didn’t mind this at all; I like Tres, but I’ve decided that I like Maia more. She’s a tough, intelligent, interesting woman, full of power and vulnerability in all the right ways. It also helped that Tres and Ralph hooked up with another intriguing, complicated woman — Madeline White, daughter of the mob boss — which spiced up their run for their lives.
Even with the positive presence of these two women, the book is populated with less-than-lovely characters. There’s an interesting division between bad and truly evil, between just skirting the law and doing unspeakable crimes. Rick Riordan handles something that could be really disturbing — the rape and murder of multiple young women — with sensitivity; the book never crosses over into the truly graphic, which makes it go down easier. The book’s first and foremost aim is saving Tres and Ralph, and, by extension, Ralph’s wife and one-year-old daughter.
As for the mystery: I kind of figured it out halfway through, but only one part of it. There’s a really nice twist in the very last chapter, one that was surprising, but made sense given the characters and the plot, and didn’t detract from the overall mystery.
Rated: High for language. Not as bad as some of his other adult books, but still quite littered with f-bombs.