For Tres Navarre, English professor turned private investigator, business has lately taken a drastic turn south. But if chasing down bail jumpers, adulterous spouses, and workmen's comp cases seemed like the dregs of the PI game, it was at least a living. Not as much could be said for tracking down a man like Will "the Ghost" Stirman.The stone-cold killer has just staged a bloody escape from the Floresville State Penitentiary with a gang of violent cons as spooked by Stirman as those on the outside who helped put him behind bars. And no one seems more worried than Navarre's boss and mentor, Erainya Manos. It was her husband along with rival PI Sam Barrera who built the case that sent Stirman away. But Erainya's husband is dead and she's certain Stirman won't let that stand in the way of his taking revenge against her and her adopted son.
Riordan's superb fifth Tres Navarre novel (Big Red Tequila, etc.), about the former Berkeley professor now working as a PI in his native San Antonio, Tex., features a fairly standard-issue villain, Will Stirman, but it also has the courage and imagination to make Stirman if not sympathetic at least understandable in his rage against the people who stole his life. The author also makes us believe in the tortured, untrustworthy brain processes of Sam Barrera, a former FBI agent now trying desperately to keep working as a PI in spite of rapidly advancing Alzheimer's. Barrera and former cop Fred Barrow ended Stirman's career as a flesh peddler selling illegal Mexican immigrants into slavery, and the first thing on Stirman's mind after a bloody prison escape is revenge against these two. But Barrow is long dead, shot by his abused wife, Erainya Manos, the tough and touching woman for whom Navarre works. When Stirman turns his rage against Manos and her eight-year-old son, whose soccer team Navarre coaches, the Texas PI gets more involved in the search for the escaped convict than his local police friends would like. Coping with Barrera's heartbreaking mental lapses and trying to balance his anger at Stirman with a growing feeling that a lot of the man's anger might be justified, Navarre walks a thin, highly believable and surprisingly suspenseful line that should delight old Riordan fans and win new ones. Agent, Gina Maccoby. (May 4) Forecast: Blurbs from Dennis Lehane, Tami Hoag and Harlan Coben will signal their fans, though as the winner of mystery's triple crown-the Edgar, Anthony and Shamus-Riordan doesn't need a lot of profile raising. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Southtown by Rick Riordan
Fourth of July morning, Will Stirman woke up with blood on his hands.
He'd been dreaming about the men who killed his wife. He'd been strangling them, one with each hand. His fingernails had cut half-moons into his palms.
Sunlight filtered through the barred window, refracted by lead glass and chicken wire. In the berth above, his cell mate, Zeke, was humming "Amazing Grace."
"Up yet, boss?" Zeke called, excitement in his voice.
Today was the day.
A few more hours. Then one way or the other, Will would never have to have that dream again.
He wiped his palms on the sheets. He shifted over to his workspace"a metal desk with a toadstool seat welded to the floor. Stuck on the walls with Juicy Fruit gum were eight years" worth of Will's sketches, fluttering in the breeze of a little green plastic fan. Adam and Eve. Abraham and Isaac. Moses and Pharaoh.
He opened his Bible and took out what he'd done last night-a map instead of a Bible scene.
Behind him, Zeke slipped down from the bunk. He started doing waist twists, his elbows cutting the air above Will's head. "Freedom sound good, boss?"
"Watch what you say, Zeke."
"Hell, just Independence Day." Zeke grinned. "I didn't mean nothing."
Zeke had a gap-toothed smile, vacant green eyes, a wide forehead dotted with acne. He was in Floresville State for raping elderly ladies in a nursing home, which didn't make him the worst sort Will had met. Been abused as a kid, is all. Had some funny ideas about love. Will worried how the boy would do when he got back to the real world.
Will looked over his map of Kingsville, hoping the police would take the bait. He'd labeled most of the major streets, his old warehouse property, the two biggest banks in town, the home of the attorney who'd defended him unsuccessfully in court.