The Barnes & Noble Review
This thriller from T. Jefferson Parker (The Fallen et al.) is not only fueled by an incredibly intricate and emotionally compelling story about a former police officer struggling to come to grips with the horrific murder of his wife and young son but also by powerfully moving allegory and imagery. With the diverse landscape of Southern California as a backdrop, water and all its symbolic incarnations (streams, rainfall, blood, teardrops, etc.) are at the center of this fascinating and unique tale of loss, vengeance, and ultimate rebirth.
After a bomb planted by a revenge-obsessed mobster inadvertently killed his wife and child, Matt Stromsoe quickly hit rock bottom. He quit his job, sold his house in Newport Beach, and retreated to the other side of the continent, where he promptly submerged himself in the bottle for two years. Eventually located by an old friend and owner of a SoCal security company, Stromsoe is offered a job working as a bodyguard for an attractive San Diego meteorologist who is being stalked, apparently by an overzealous fan.
Returning to Southern California, however, stirs up painful memories for the ex-cop -- and puts him squarely in the sights of the man who murdered his family, Mexican Mafia boss Mike Tavarez, who is serving a life sentence in Pelican Bay State Prison. Despite being behind bars, Tavarez is diligently plotting Stromsoe's demise -- and his first order of business is killing weatherwoman Frances Hatfield, who is perfecting a "moisture acceleration" system that could alter the landscape of Southern California forever…
As with 2006's The Fallen, Parker succeeds in creating a deeply flawed yet endearing protagonist whom readers will find themselves pulling for -- especially at the novel's wild and unanticipated conclusion. Paul Goat Allen
Bestseller Parker's 14th California crime novel opens with an unforgettable sentence: "Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son." The wife and son are both killed by a bomb meant for Matt Stromsoe, an Orange County detective on the trail of his former classmate, Mike Tavarez, now a leader of La Eme, the Mexican mafia. Tavarez goes to prison for life for the bombing, while the seriously injured Stromsoe, after a long recovery, takes a job guarding Frankie Leigh, a popular TV weather reporter in San Diego. Leigh has a stalker, who turns out to be employed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; the DWP wants Leigh-and her research on rainmaking-out of the picture. Parker (The Fallen) creates his usual interesting, multifaceted characters, though the plotting, which reconnects Tavarez with Stromsoe, is clunky. Still, the insights into La Eme and the science of rainmaking as well as the inevitable confrontation between the two principals show why Parker ranks as one of the top contemporary suspense writers. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In Southern California, as San Diego weather lady Frankie Hatfield puts it, "Rain is life!" Rain is also raw power in the land of avocadoes and sod farms. When Hatfield stumbles upon a family secret that allows her to control the rain, that discovery brings her unfathomable power with potentially deadly consequences. P.I. Matt Stromsoe is battling with his own demons—his wife and child have been murdered, and he's seeking redemption—and he willingly accepts an assignment to protect Hatfield. The case takes him from fragrant orange groves in the San Diego hills to the cold cement of Pelican Bay State Prison. Parker's trademark is the ability to create real characters—tangible, flawed, and heroic—and Stromsoe follows the tradition. Parker's latest success (following The Fallen) is an absorbing thriller that continues to nudge him nearer to the top of the genre. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/06.]
Friendship betrayed, love lost and found and, of course, murder, in Parker's superbly wrought tenth (following The Fallen, 2006, etc.). Plus one of those wonderful opening sentences that can stand the hair up on the back of the neck: "Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son." The boy's name is Michael Tavarez-smart, talented, handsome and profoundly amoral, though that facet of his character is late-blooming. On the day they meet, they are both innocent, relatively uncomplicated freshmen-young Stromsoe eager to be the drum major of the Santa Ana High marching band, young Tavarez a would-be clarinetist. The two are drawn to each other. And then there's Hallie, the pretty, vibrant, restless girl. Maybe it's she who's the primary cause of the hostility that grows between them, but probably not. Probably, it was there from the beginning, a combustible waiting to be set off. But they follow separate paths-Stromsoe into the San Diego Sheriff's Department, where he becomes a clever, effective deputy; Tavarez into the Mexican Mafia, of which he becomes a powerful and ruthless chieftain. They keep careful track of each other, however, and as the years pass, what was once friendship transmogrifies into the kind of implacable enmity that must always be, in a certain sense, defining. Tavarez's lover is killed during a manhunt spearheaded by Stromsoe, who accepts the blame for that unintended consequence. When Tavarez extracts a brutal revenge, Stromsoe wants an eye for an eye. And so it goes between them-death the only conceivable separator. Parker shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald the viewpoint that "character is action," which is what makes thisauthor's fiction so intensely readable.
“Tasty tension...a psychologically sharp crime thriller.”
Los Angeles Times
“Taut well-oiled thriller.”
“Pure unadulterated excellence...Parker ups the ante and sets his own new standard with STORM RUNNERS, an unforgettable work.”
South Florida Sun Sentinel
“Intriguing...absorbing...STORM RUNNERS’ plot is complemented by the equally memorable characters.”
Curled Up with a Good Book
“Fast-paced and very difficult to put down.”
“Any reader will have a hard time putting this one down.”
“The action is nonstop as the plot zooms…The characters (are) memorable, the story unpredictable and the conclusion chilling.”
Read an Excerpt
Storm Runners A Novel
By T. Parker
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2007 T. Parker
All right reserved.
Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son. The boy's name was Mike Tavarez. Tavarez was shy and curly-haired and he stared as Stromsoe lay the mace on the cafeteria table. A mace is a stylized baton brandished by a drum major, which is what Matt Stromsoe had decided to become. Tavarez held his rented clarinet, which he hoped to play in the same marching band that Stromsoe hoped to lead, and which had prompted this conversation.
"Sweet," said Tavarez. He had a dimple and fawn eyes. He could play all of the woodwinds, cornet and sax, and pretty much any percussion instrument. He had joined the marching band to meet girls. He was impressed by Stromsoe's bold decision to try out for drum major now, in only his freshman year. But this was 1980 in Southern California, where drum majoring had long ago slipped down the list of high school cool.
A little crowd of students had stopped to look at the mace. It was not quite five feet long, black-handled, with a chrome chain winding down its length. At one end was an eagle ornament and at the other a black rubber tip.
"How much did it cost?" asked Tavarez.
"Ninety-nine dollars," said Stromsoe. "It's the All American model, the best one they had."
"Waste of money," said a football player.
"May I help you?" asked Stromsoe, regarding him with a level gaze. Though he was only a freshman and a drum major hopeful, Stromsoe was big at fourteen and there was something incontrovertible about him. He had expressive blue eyes and a chubby, rosy-cheeked face that looked as if he would soon outgrow it.
"Whatever," said the football player.
"Then move along."
Tavarez looked from the athlete to the drum-major-in-making. The football player shrugged and shuffled off, a red-and-leather Santa Ana Saints varsity jacket over baggy sweatpants, and outsize athletic shoes with the laces gone. Tavarez thought the guy might take Stromsoe in a fight, but he had also seen Stromsoe's look—what the boys in Delhi F Troop called ojos de piedros—eyes of stone. Delhi F Troop turf included the Tavarez family's small stucco home on Flora Street, and though Tavarez avoided the gangs, he liked their solidarity and colorful language. Tavarez figured that the football player must have seen the look too.
That Saturday Matt Stromsoe won the drum major tryouts. He was the only candidate. But his natural sense of rhythm was good and his summer months of solitary practice paid off. He had been accepted for summer clinics at the venerable Smith Walbridge Drum Major Camp in Illinois, but had not been able to come up with the money. His parents had thought it all would pass.
On Friday, one day before Stromsoe won the job of drum major, Mike Tavarez nailed the third b-flat clarinet spot, easily outplaying the other chairs and doing his best to seem humble for the band instructor and other musicians. He played his pieces then spent most of the day quietly loitering around the music rooms, smiling at the female musicians but failing to catch an eye. He was slender and angelic but showed no force of personality.
Stromsoe watched those Friday tryouts, noting the cool satisfaction on Tavarez's face as he played an animated version of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The song was a Santa Ana High School staple. By the time Stromsoe retired his mace four years later he had heard the song, blaring behind him as he led the march, well over five hundred times.
He always liked the reckless joy of it. When his band was playing it aggressively it sounded like the whole happy melody was about to blow into chaos. Marching across the emerald grass of Santa Ana stadium on a warm fall night, his shako hat down low over his eyes and his eagle-headed All American mace flashing in the bright lights, Stromsoe had sometimes imagined the notes of the song bursting like fireworks into the night behind him.
The song was running through his mind twenty-one years later when the bomb went off.
Excerpted from Storm Runners by T. Parker Copyright © 2007 by T. Parker. Excerpted by permission.
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