Finished: Iron River by T. Jefferson Parker, 2010, 9780525951490.
I'm am absolutely sure that there are people who think this book sucks. That it is boring or poorly written or something else. They're wrong. Iron River is just as good as the previous two Hood novels.
There are several stories running through the novel but they all involve Hood.
Main story: Hood has been assigned to a task force with the ATF (okay, ATFE) in the deserts east of San Diego. Operation Blowdown is focused on stopping illegal gun buys and shipments into Mexico. Hood is only two days into the assignment when a shooting kills a Mexican drug czar's son at a U.S. restaurant. An ATF agent is kidnapped and taken into Mexico to be tortured and murdered in retaliation. Hood and other agents are sent into Mexico in a black operation to rescue the agent. They succeed. The agent is kidnapped a second time from his hospital by a group of 30 Zetas who shoot the place up. Hood and a Mexican cop drive in to Mexico to ransom the agent back from the Zetas. They succeed but Mexican cop is murdered.
Side stories: Hood's love life with doctor and mysterious woman. Mysterious hospital patient, Mike, who knows secret cop intelligence he should not and may or may not be a devil. Bradley Jones continues to walk both sides of the law. Young president of bankrupt Pace Arms who has designed a full-auto .32 pistol he is selling to a Mexican cartel boss.
Real story: Charlie Hood. Hood still likes the Bakersfield Sound and driving but does not take the long nighttime drives of before. Hood is driven by duty and law and loyalty to the agents he works with. Hood hopes for rescue of the kidnapped agent. Hood holds little hope for Bradley's keeping on the good side.
1. Great use of desert setting by Parker.
2. Interesting take from the ATF side. The ATF has a horrible reputation among gun nuts but they have worthy goals. Not much time was spent with the ATF characters. EDIT: I spoke to an FFL holder a few weeks ago who talked about the difficulties of being a licensee: theft, burglary, ATF anal retentiveness (he did not check a box on a form and was grilled by several agents at their office), surprise inspections.
3. The "devil walking the earth" angle could have been a deal-breaker for the novel. I liked it though. Parker's handling of it was well done and the idea that Mike may just be a great liar and insane kept things going.
4. Hood carries a .22 for a back-up gun. Seems like a strange choice. But, what the hell do I care? It's a novel.
5. Great discussions on border issues and the brutality and violence of the cartels.
6. Gratuitious use of Los Straitjackets