Book: “The Renegades,” by T. Jefferson Parker

“The Renegades,” published in 2009, is the second Charlie Hood novel from T. Jefferson Parker. The first was “LA Outlaws,” published in 2008 (and which I briefly reviewed in October 2009). That was the better book, thanks to the superbly drawn character of LA outlaw Allison Murrieta, a sympathetic bank robber with Robin-Hoodish leanings, who becomes a folk hero of sorts, as well as a Hood love interest.

Allison Murrieta plays a part in “The Renegades,” and in fact permeates the book. But I’m not going to say anything more about her. You need to read “LA Outlaws” first.

Hood is an LA deputy sheriff. “The Renegades” begins with Hood’s new partner, Terry Laws, getting machine-gunned on the street, with Hood watching (and spared, for some reason). Hood is enlisted to find the killer. Along the way, he encounters Laws’ previous partner, Draper.

Meanwhile, a second strand begins. Draper begins telling someone his story–about how he and Laws murdered two drug money-runners, set up another guy for the hit, and then arranged with the deadly cartel leader to take over the money-running route. And pocket about $7000 each, every week.

The reader hears all of this from Draper. Meanwhile, we watch Hood trying to figure things out, while we already know, pretty much, what happened. Parker keeps injecting chapters with Draper spilling more of his story, and then we return to Hood for a few chapters.

It’s quite an interesting structure. We get information from Draper at just the right time, no more than we need. Parker dribbles it out just right. Obviously, everything points to a showdown between Hood and Draper. But even then, surprises await.

Parker actually did something similar with “LA Outlaws.” Allison Murrietta’s parts are written in first-person (like the Draper chapters), while everything else is in third person.

I didn’t learn a great deal about Charlie Hood in this book. He’s still kind of ordinary to me, nothing distinguishing him particularly from protagonists of similar books. I prefer more distinct characters like Stone Barrington, Virgil Flowers, Alex Cross, or any Robert Parker hero. But T. Jefferson Parker’s superb plotting will keep me coming back, though not rushing back.

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