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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Beginning in the mid-1980s, T. Jefferson Parker has been one America's most intelligent, consistently reliable crime writers. His eight previous novels, which include the Edgar-nominated Red Light, constituted a singular achievement that is enhanced even more by the addition of Silent Joe.
Silent Joe bears a clear -- and clearly acknowledged -- resemblance to Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn. Parker's hero, Joe Trona (a spiritual analogue of Lethem's Lionel Essrog), is horribly scarred in infancy when his drunken father pours battery acid on his face. Joe then spends five years in an orphanage before being adopted by Will and Maryann Trona. When we first encounter him, he is 24 years old and possesses an unshakable loyalty to his adoptive parents. By day, Joe works as a sheriff's deputy. By night, he serves as his father's bodyguard, accompanying Will -- an Orange County supervisor -- on his nocturnal rounds.
Early on, an enigmatic night mission goes spectacularly wrong when unidentified gunmen murder Will Trona. Wracked by guilt, Joe initiates an investigation into his father's secret life and the surprising circumstances behind his death. His investigation encompasses a fraudulent kidnapping, several related deaths, numerous acts of blackmail, and the gradual revelation of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving a powerful cabal of Orange County business and political leaders. Along the way, Joe uncovers previously hidden aspects of his father's character, fumbles his way into the first romantic relationship of his life, and discovers the truth about his own mysterious origins.
Silent Joe is a remarkable novel that features a compelling and constantly evolving protagonist. Beneath his damaged exterior and well-mannered, carefully constructed persona, Joe Trona conceals a first-rate intellect and a highly developed sensibility, qualities that become increasingly evident as events unfold. Through Joe, Parker examines complex issues of love and loyalty, faith and family, ethics and personal identity, all within the context of a gripping, suspenseful narrative. Silent Joe is contemporary crime fiction at its absolute best. I urge you to give it a try. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).