Finished: The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow, 2008, 9780307266200.
Damn good. Effortlessly good. I was distracted at times by wondering how much work Winslow may have done to learn all the surfing lore and history he weaves into the story.
Boone Daniels was a born surfer. His parents were big time surfers and had him on a board before he could walk. Boone was good enough to go pro in his teens but saw surfing as a love and life, not commerce. Boone has lived his whole life by the San Diego beach and after college got a great outdoor job, as a San Diego cop.
But, when Boone and his senior patrol partner picked-up a suspected pedophile kidnapper Boone called the arrest in rather than let his partner torture the suspect to find a missing girl. Boone got the silent treatment and worse from his colleagues and ended up resigning. Boone is pushing thirty now, has a struggling surf shop, and does some occasional PI work for local law firms.
Boone's life is still surfing and an important part of that life is morning surf sessions with The Dawn Patrol. The Patrol numbers just six, but they are all very tight friends. A big swell, a very big swell, the kind of swell that produces monster waves and only comes around every four years is expected in a couple days. But, Boone gets corralled by local, hot-bodied lawyer Petra to find a missing witness. The story goes on.
Good stuff: 1- Lots of neat and well rounded characters by Winslow who sometime uses quick chapters to overlap stories in the timeline. 2- There are no stereotyped surfers, lawyers or bad guys; everyone is believable and real. 3- Great set-ups by Winslow to place doubt in my mind about how characters may act. Example: the importance of extended family to Samoans is brilliantly summarized by Winslow at one point and then brought back to keep you guessing on whether a Dawn Patrol member will stand by Boone or not.
Bad stuff: 1- The ending fifth of the novel - featuring a forced prostitution plotline - did not quite fit. Most of the novel has Boone chasing the witness who is in peril. The prostitution and child abuse angle fit into everything that came before but felt tacked on at the end.