Book Review: The Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker

The Last Good Guy by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestseller T. Jefferson Parker is the third book in the Roland Ford series, an electrifying new thriller where the private investigator hunts for a missing teenager and uncovers a dark conspiracy in his most personal case yet.

Roland Ford takes on a new case (after Swift Vengeance). Beautiful but confusing, Penelope Rideout is searching for her sister, Daley. Penelope is sure Daley ran away from home “because Daley had a ‘wild streak’ and was mixed up with a ‘guaranteed loser’ named Nick Moreno.”

Ford’s investigation at Daley’s school, however, reveals that Daley had a life her sister knew nothing about. She frequently sneaked out of school and was a regular at Alchemy 101, a nearby teen club.

“Daley Rideout is a troubled girl,” [Chancellor Stahl] said. “Bright, but easily distracted. She tested at one thirty-one on the Stanford-Binet but only makes B’s. She has a list of Monarch infractions a mile long. Mostly absences. […] Quite honestly, I don’t think the sister can control her.”

And what of Penelope herself? Is she trustworthy?

“You big dumb man. Isn’t my word good enough?”

 

“You’ve given me a lot of words, Penelope. Some are more truthful than others.”

When Ford visits Nick Moreno’s apartment and finds him dead—shot execution-style—he knows that this case will be more complicated than he imagined. Daley had been there. But when Ford talks to an upstairs neighbor, he discovers that Daley has been abducted by two men in a silver SUV. An SUV licensed to the security firm SNR.

They were in their late twenties or early thirties. One wore tan pants and a black golf shirt. He as big, looked strong, and had blond hair cut short on the sides and back but longer on top. The other wore the same clothes and a black windbreaker.

The Rideout sisters have some oddities in their history. They have moved often—four times in the four years after Daley’s birth and again every year or so after the deaths of the parents in a car crash. Why do they move so often? For work? Wanderlust? When Ford attempts to identify the Richard Hauser to whom Penelope claims to be married, he comes up empty. He finds no Richard Hauser—not in the military, as Penelope claimed, not anywhere.

With no other leads, Ford follows the silver SNR SUV to a date farm. The security there seems much tighter than it should be for a farm, suspiciously tighter. Ford is caught by the SNR operatives. When he asks for Daley Rideout, he is beaten and dragged across the desert by an ATV, convincing him that SNR has a connection with Daley.

Alchemy 101. The Cathedral by the Sea. Paradise Date Farm. All linked by SNR Security. By Adam Revell, Connor, Eric and the six helmeted warriors who had easily laid waste to Roland Ford, PI. Why had they done that? Because I was snooping after Daley Rideout? Maybe, but they had been in some control of her, chaperoned by Connor and Eric. What threat was I? […] If my beating was not to keep me away from Daley, then what?

Before Ford finally finds Daley Rideout, he must solve the mystery of the Cathedral by the Sea, the date farm, and a decommissioned power plant and uncover the connections between them all. Along the way, he will meet an evangelical preacher and discover plans for a heinous terrorist attack by a white supremacist organization.

The action is nonstop, but the real strength of this book is the writing. The conversational style sounds as though Roland Ford, PI, is talking directly to the reader. While Parker keeps the action moving, he describes characters efficiently and meditates on the human condition.

The girls pursed their lips and nodded glumly, more concerned with their fates as lunchtime conspirators than the possible fate of Daley in the company of two murderers. Youth isn’t wasted on the young, I thought. They just can’t see over it.

Not to be missed.

Check out T. Jefferson Parker’s favorite crime novels and movies!

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