|Rick Riordan: Southtown|
Bantam Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0-553-801-84-8
Will "the Ghost" Stirman lived each day of his life in the Floresville State Prison planning and waiting for his day of escape. Each day he thought about his beloved wife, Soledad. Each day he lived with rage in his soul and dreams of revenge against those whom he believed responsible for her death and that of their child. This day he put his plan into action, and five desperate convicts escape from Floresville State Prison in Texas.
As police throughout the state follow false leads planted by the "Floresville Five," Stirman makes his way to San Antonio to find his planned targets. He intends to deal with each, obtain vengeance and recover money he feels belongs to him. At the top of his hate list stand Erainya Manos, owner of the Erainya Manos Agency; Sam Barrera, a former FBI agent; and Fred Borrow, Erainya's husband. Stirman believes -- with good reason -- that this trio set him up as a fall guy in an illegal smuggling ring, bribed witnesses, had him convicted of murder and profited from his conviction.
Stirman makes an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Erainya's young son by luring him away from a school soccer practice. Fortunately for the boy, Tres Navarre, the agency's co-owner and primary private investigator, manages to foil the attempt. Now alerted to Stirman's presence in the area, Navarre's search takes on an elevated sense of urgency, and he moves quickly to find safe haven for Erainya and her son.
Navarre's quest to bring Stirman to justice leads him to a long abandoned ranch and into the dark world of "the Coyotes" -- those who smuggle human cargo across the southern borders of the United States for profit, selling the unfortunates into lives of slavery and prostitution. In the process, Navarre learns long-held secrets that he could never have imagined nor ever wished to know.
Author Rick Riordan counts the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus among his awards for writing excellence. While Southtown may or may not elicit comparable critical acclaim, it does contain many of the same elements which Riordan combines so masterfully. The book's plot, intriguingly well crafted, keeps the reader on edge. Riordan's wealth of knowledge of the Texas settings into which he weaves his tales provides a strong sense of place, and he populates the story with a variety of interesting and many faceted characters. (Sam Barrera, aging, alone and battling desperately to cope with his gradually worsening dementia while fighting for his life is an example of a character with whom many readers can empathize). Add these elements to an easy to read writing style, and Southtown emerges as a strikingly suspenseful novel with an unexpected ending that somehow seems just right.
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