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Mission Road (Tres Navarre Series #6)

Mission Road (Tres Navarre Series #6)

3.5 14
by Rick Riordan

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series
The triple-crown winner of mystery’s most prestigious awards–the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Shamus–Rick Riordan blasted onto the crime scene with one of its freshest and most intriguing protagonists, Tres Navarre. In


From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series
The triple-crown winner of mystery’s most prestigious awards–the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Shamus–Rick Riordan blasted onto the crime scene with one of its freshest and most intriguing protagonists, Tres Navarre. In Mission Road, Navarre returns in a wrenching crime drama in which he must revisit the sins of the past to catch a killer about to get away with murder…again.

San Antonio private investigator Tres Navarre is used to working on the edge–that razor-sharp line between legal and life sentence. But this time he’s stepped straight into a no-man’s-land. When an old friend appears at his door spattered with blood and wanted for attempted homicide, Tres doesn’t have to think twice about where his loyalty lies–or the consequences.

Ralph Arguello is a criminal who put the street life behind him when he married SAPD detective Ana DeLeon. Now Ana’s been gunned down and her fellow cops don’t need to look far to find a prime suspect. For Ana recently reopened the most infamous cold case in SAPD history–the unsolved murder on notorious Mission Road eighteen years before that threw the San Antonio underworld into bloody chaos. Ana was about to bring charges against the suspected killer: her husband, Ralph Arguello.Tres is sure that Ralph didn’t do it–and that he didn’t shoot his wife. But with the police and the Mafia both out for revenge, there’s no one to turn to for help.

Now, armed and dangerous, the targets of a citywide manhunt, Tres and Ralph have just hours to discover what really happened on Mission Road almost two decades ago. To find the truth, they must set a collision course with the past–and with a secret that will tear their lives apart.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Paula L. Woods
… the heart of Mission Road belongs to Etch Hernandez, a man with deep and conflicted feelings for his dead partner, and Maia, who tries mightily to extract Tres from the fix he's in while also putting him on the spot about the future of their changing relationship. That and an unexpected twist in the book's final pages make Mission Road another satisfying entry in this rule-breaking series.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The past collides explosively with the present in Edgar-winner Riordan's relatively weak sixth Tres Navarre novel (after 2004's Southtown) when Navarre's boyhood friend, reformed criminal Ralph Arguello, appears on his doorstep wearing a blood-soaked guayabera barely one step ahead of the San Antonio police. The cops believe Arguello's wife, cold case detective Ana DeLeon, is about to name her husband as the prime suspect in the 18-year-old unsolved murder of Franklin White, son of a local organized crime boss-and, more incredibly, that Arguello shot her to slow down the investigation. Arguello convinces Navarre he's being set up, and the two of them struggle to evade a citywide manhunt and discover the real killer's identity. Riordan jump-cuts between the present and the mid-1980s to tell the story of White's murder and to provide background for the main characters, including Ana's mother Lucia, one of the city's first female cops. While the parallel narrative adds much needed depth, it dampens the pace and momentum. But the book's biggest flaw is the sitcom-like familiarity of the characters, including Navarre himself-the self-deprecating, wise-cracking PI who could only exist as a fictional trope. Agent, Gina Maccoby. (July 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Riordan's Texas p.i. with a degree in Medieval Lit is up to his anomalous old tricks, this time trying to crack a cold case while being chased by hot cops. The San Antonio police don't like Tres Navarre the least little bit. And they have their reasons. Item: a certain semi-disreputable friend of his, Ralph Arguello, is believed to have pumped a bullet into the chest of his wife, who happens to be homicide sergeant Ana DeLeon. Item: she's now comatose, prognosis as dismal as it can get. Item: Tres has gone on the lam with would-be cop-killer Arguello, and the SAPD, in no mood to make nice distinctions, regards this move as big-time guilt by association. Of course, there's much more to all this than meets the eye. Item: Tres and Ralph have been buds since high school, the kind that have always responded to trouble by covering each other's back. Item: Ralph adores his Ana, Tres knows, and wouldn't harm a hair of her much-loved head. Item: there's no real doubt in anyone's mind that whatever happened in Ana's kitchen is inextricably linked to whatever happened 18 years back on Mission Road, to a well-to-do young monster named Franklin White, remorseless murderer of a series of blameless young women. No question that White is extremely dead, clubbed repeatedly by someone intent on rendering him so. Not much question either that White deserved what he got. But who wielded the lethal club? Tres is convinced that Ana had at last penetrated the mystery, and that's why she was attacked. In order to take the heat off his pal and himself, Tres will have to find out what she knew. Competent, but its Edgar-, Anthony-, and Shamus-winning predecessor, Southtown (2003), prompted expectations of somethingmore.
From the Publisher
"A satisfying exploration of passion's dark powers.... What had seemed to be merely an entertaining crime novel reveals itself as a clever mystery, too."—Booklist

"Riordan's Texas p.i. with a degree in Medieval Lit is up to his anomolous old tricks, this time trying to crack a cold case while being chased by hot cops."—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Tres Navarre Series , #6
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ANA HAD TO GET THE BABY OUT OF THE HOUSE. Things were about to get ugly.

She called Ralph's sister, told her one of them would drop off Lucia in ten minutes.

She packed a bag of diapers, bottles, extra clothes, Lucia's favorite blanket and stuffed beagle.

In the kitchen high chair, Lucia was finger-painting her tray with yams, her meaty little hands coated with orange goo. She'd managed to get some in the black tufts of her hair.

Ana stared at the mess on her daughter's bib and realized she was thinking about blood-splatter patterns.

Looking at her own daughter, and thinking about the homicide case.

Ana had to end this. Tonight, before she lost her nerve.

She zipped the travel bag, unlocked the high chair tray and immediately got yams on the sleeve of her blazer.

"Damn it," she muttered.

She hadn't bothered changing from work. She'd only taken time to empty her shoulder holster and lock the service-issue Glock in the hallway closet where it always went the moment she got home.

She was trying to figure out how to get the baby cleaned up without ruining her clothes when Ralph stormed into the kitchen.

He'd showered and put on his old traveling outfit--black jeans, steel-tipped boots, crisp white linen guayabera, black leather jacket. His newly braided ponytail curled over one shoulder.

He clunked a Magnum clip next to the baby's tippy-cup and started loading his .357.

"What are you doing?" Ana demanded.

He gave her that high-voltage look which had been bothering her for weeks.

Since laser surgery, Ralph had set aside his thick round glasses for contact lenses. There was no longer any shield between his ferocity and the rest of the world. His stare reminded her too much of the people she worked with--cops and killers.

She wasn't afraid of him. She'd never been afraid of him. But tension from their earlier argument hung in the air like the smell of burnt fuses.

He finished loading the gun, hooked it inside his pants--a makeshift holster rigged from a coat hanger. "Johnny Shoes has a lead for me. I'll drop Lucia on the way."

Johnny Zapata.

That's how desperate they'd become: begging for help from a drug lord who literally cut his enemies to pieces.

"Ralph, the last time you saw Zapata--"

"I'll be fine."

"He tried to kill you."

"You want to give me a better lead?"

He must've known she was holding back. She'd asked for time alone tonight. She only did that when she needed to make an important decision. And this time, their lives hung in the balance.

"I can't," Ana told him.

"You know who killed Frankie, don't you?"

"I've already told you more than I should."

He considered that, his eyes boring into her. "Yeah. Maybe you did."

"Ah-ba." Lucia held up her gooey hands to her father. "Ah-ba."

Ralph unfastened the seat strap and lifted the baby out of the yam disaster area. Her fingers made streaks of orange on his white guayabera, but Ralph didn't seem to care. He kissed the baby's messy cheek, put her over his shoulder. Lucia made a high-pitched squeal of delight and kicked her bunny feet against Daddy's belly.

Ana's heart felt sore.

Lucia never acted so happy when Ana picked her up.

Career necessity. Lieutenant Hernandez hadn't put his butt on the line recommending her for sergeant so she could take six months off to change diapers. Still, the first year of Lucia's life, mother and daughter had spent most of their time telling each other goodbye.

"Hey, Sergeant." Ralph held out his hand, his tone so fierce he might've been issuing a challenge. "It'll be okay. Tu eres mi amor por vida."

She wanted to cry, she loved him so much.

Two years ago at their wedding, her police friends had given her horrible looks. Hernandez had pulled her aside, eyes flooded with concern, fingers like talons on her forearm: Ana, how can you love this guy? He's a goddamn killer.

But they didn't know Ralph. He loved her the way he did everything else--with absolute intensity. Since the day he'd decided he wanted Ana, she never stood a chance. He had boiled over her like a wildfire.

She laced her fingers with his.

She couldn't let anything happen to him. She should never have opened that cold case file.

"Zapata will have proof," Ralph promised. "Anybody does, it's him. And he's going to give it to me. Believe that, okay?"

She knew what Ralph was capable of. Which was exactly why she didn't dare tell him everything she knew.

He gave her hand a squeeze, kissed her lightly. His whiskers were rough. He smelled of patchouli.

Ralph cradled the baby against one shoulder and slung the travel bag over the other. He stuffed an extra clip of ammunition in his pocket.

The kitchen door swung shut behind him, winter air gusting into the kitchen.

Ana listened to his footsteps crunch down the gravel walkway. He was calling Lucia his little nina, singing her a Spanish carol, "Los Animales," as he strapped her into the car seat.

His headlights swept across the kitchen, illuminating the Christmas ristra and the empty high chair, then disappeared down Ruiz Street.

ANA SAT IN THE LIVING ROOM, trying to formulate a plan.

He would be here in fifteen minutes.

There had to be a way--something to make him come clean. Their earlier conversation gave her little hope he would listen to reason, but she had to try. She owed him that much.

On the coffee table, a photograph of her mother stared back at her--Lucia DeLeon, senior, twenty-nine years old, in dress uniform, 1975, the day she received the Medal of Valor.

Her mother's face was patchwork of yellow bruises, her arm in a sling, but her posture radiated quiet confidence, black eyebrows knit as if she didn't quite understand all the fuss. She'd saved three officers' lives, become the first female cop in SAPD history to use deadly force. What was the big deal?

Ana liked to remember her mother that way--self-assured, indomitable, always firm and fair. But over the years, the photograph had lost some of its magic. It could no longer quite exorcise that other memory--her mother fifteen years older, slumped in bed with the drapes drawn, a glass of wine at her lips, skin sickly blue in the light of an afternoon soap opera.

Come back when you don't feel like preaching, mijita.

Ana put her face in her hands. A sob was building in her chest, but she couldn't give in to that. She had to think.

If her mother--the Lucia DeLeon of 1975--had been handed Ana's problem, what would she have done?

Ana pulled her laptop out of her briefcase. She booted it up, typed in her password. She reviewed her case notes, the crime scene photos. Poor-quality scans of pre-digital black-and-whites, but Ana could still get the feel. She'd been to the scene many times.

Ana imagined herself as the killer.

It was a little before 10:00 p.m., midsummer, on the rural South Side. She was standing on the shoulder of Mission Road, arguing with the young man she was about to murder.

A warm rain had just pushed through, leaving the air like steam engine smoke, scented with wild garlic. In the woods, cicadas chirred.

Ana and the young man had both pulled over their cars--possibly a prearranged rendezvous, though why the young man would've agreed to it, Ana didn't know. There was nothing for miles except barbed wire fence, railroad tracks and old mission lands overgrown with cactus and chinaberry.

The road was an ancient trail connecting the five Spanish missions of San Antonio. It was also a popular dumping ground for corpses--isolated and dark, yet easy to get to. Homicide department trivia: The first recorded murder along Mission Road had been in 1732. According to the diary of a Franciscan friar, a Coahuiltecan Indian girl was found strangled in the fields of maize. Not much had changed over the centuries.

On the night Ana was thinking about, the victim was a young Anglo, six-one, thick-set, dressed in khakis and a white linen shirt. He wore a platinum Rolex that would still be on his wrist when the police found his body. He had shoulder-length blond hair, parted in the middle, feathered in that unfortunate Eighties style. He was handsome enough, the way a young bull groomed for auction is handsome, but his expression was arrogant--a natural disdain that came from being born rich, well-connected, absolutely untouchable.

She and the victim argued. There was probably name-calling. Some pushing. At some point--and this was critical--he grabbed her arm. When she yanked away, his fingernails drew blood. He turned away, probably thinking the fight was over. He started back to his car--a silver Mercedes convertible just a few yards away.

But the fight was not over for her. She grasped the murder weapon--a blunt object, shorter than a baseball bat. She imagined herself striking from behind, cracking the side of the young man's skull. He went down, crumpling before her, but she wasn't satisfied. Rage took over.

Afterward, she left him there--she made no attempt to hide his body or move his car. She would've known damn well who the victim's father was, what kind of hell would break loose when the body was found. She knew what would happen to her if she was ever discovered. She simply drove away, and her secret had stayed hidden for eighteen years.

Ana could slip into the killer's skin so easily it frightened her. But then, she knew him well. His size, his strength, his motive, the way he would've lost control. Everything fit.

But how could she make an arrest?

Light flooded the living room windows.

A car pulled into the drive--familiar headlights, ten minutes early.

Ana wasn't ready. She glanced at the hallway closet, where her gun was locked, but he was already coming up the front steps.

Don't panic, she told herself. It won't come to that.

The doorbell rang.

Ana had a sudden desire to bolt out the back, run to the neighbors.

But no. She was in control. She'd asked for this meeting. She had faced down desperate men before.

She walked to the front door to greet him.

HE HAD BEEN IDLING A FEW blocks away in a taqueria parking lot, getting up his nerve, replaying the argument with Ana over and over.

She was so goddamn stubborn. He'd put the obvious answer right in front of her, given her overwhelming evidence, and still she refused to believe.

He tried to think of an alternative to what he was about to do.

There wasn't one.

He loaded the .357 Magnum, put the car into drive.

He wasn't worried about neighbors. Ana DeLeon's house fronted Rosedale Park. On either side were vacant lease properties--not unusual for the West Side. The only neighbors were the ones in back, an elderly couple across the alley.

If things went right, it wouldn't matter if he was seen. Her husband, Ralph Arguello, was a reliably volatile son-of-a-bitch. Ralph would start the fight. If things went wrong . . . no. He wouldn't let things go wrong.

He pulled into the driveway. He could see Ana through the living room window.

He walked toward the porch, the cold air stinging his eyes. The butt of the unfamiliar gun chafed against his hipbone.

She met him at the door.

As always, the sight of her stirred an unpleasant mix of feelings--resentment, longing, grief. She was the closest thing he had to family. She was also his deepest war wound--a scar that wouldn't heal.

Her short black hair was disheveled; there was a long smear of baby food on her sleeve. The top button of her blouse was undone. Her collarbone made a smooth shadow against her skin. A beautiful woman, but she had interrogator's eyes--dark as magnets.

"Well?" she asked.

"I have an answer for you." His voice sounded strangely dry, even to him. "May I come in?"

ONCE HE WAS INSIDE, SHE DID a good job acting calm, but he knew her too well. Her shoulders were tense. Her fingertips tapped against her thumbs.

"Make yourself comfortable," she called from the kitchen. "You want a soda?"

He stared at the photograph of Lucia on the living room table. He was always amazed how strongly Ana resembled her mother.

Next to the photo was Ana's laptop--crime scene images frozen on the screen.

"Where's Ralph?" he asked.

"Out. Was that a no on the soda?"

"Out?" He tried to keep his voice level. "You were supposed to keep him here. This is a conversation about him."

"We got Sprite, Diet Coke--"

"Ana, goddamn it. You're out of time."

She popped a can of Sprite. "This conversation isn't about Ralph. It's about you."


She leaned against the kitchen doorway. "I can't let you skate."

He could feel the situation unraveling. This was not the way it was supposed to happen. Ralph was the enemy. Ana had to realize that. Ralph was supposed to be here, to be provoked into showing how violent he was, how capable of murder.

Carefully, he said, "You're not serious."

"You left a trail." Ana's voice was heavy with anger, as if he had let her down. "You were sloppy. How could you think I wouldn't find you?"

Her expression stirred bad memories--memories he couldn't tolerate.

"You have any idea what you're saying?" he asked. "Me, for Christ's sake?"

She nodded to the computer. "Read my notes."

He glanced at the morgue photo on the screen. He touched the keyboard, brought up a minimized document--Ana's draft report on the investigation.

It didn't take long to see that she'd done her homework. Every mistake he'd made, then and now--neatly documented.

He felt claustrophobic, dizzy, like he was waking up inside a coffin.

The irony was horrible. Yet she'd done good detective work, maybe even enough to convict.

"Ralph Arguello is poison," he managed. "You don't know who your friends are anymore."

"I'm telling you first because a confession would be easier. We can get you some kind of deal. Protection. Otherwise, once word gets out, you're a dead man."

His jaw tightened. She wasn't going to change her mind. She would risk a confrontation, her career, everything, rather than see something happen to that goddamn criminal she'd married.

He put his hand at his waist, felt the butt of the .357 under his coat. "You're right."

"Give me a statement, then."

"I'm a dead man." He brought out the gun. "If word gets out."

Her face paled. "You won't shoot me. I'm going to call now. We'll get you a lawyer."

She walked to the hallway phone--tension still in her shoulders, but damn, she was keeping it together well.

The thing was: She might be right. He wasn't sure he could hurt her. Her, of all people.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Rick Riordan is the author of six previous Tres Navarre novels—Big Red Tequila, winner of the Shamus and Anthony Awards; The Widower’s Two-Step, winner of the Edgar Award; The Last King of Texas; The Devil Went Down to Austin; Southtown; and Mission Road. He is also the author of the acclaimed thriller Cold Springs and the young adult novel The Lightning Thief. Rick Riordan lives with his family in San Antonio, Texas.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

San Antonio, TX
Date of Birth:
June 5, 1964
Place of Birth:
San Antonio, TX
B.A. in English and History, University of Texas

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Mission Road (Tres Navarre Series #6) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Former criminal Ralph Arguello asks his childhood friend private detective Tres Navarre for help. Apparently, the San Antonio Police Department believe he shot his wife detective Ana Deleon to prevent her from accusing him of killing Franklin White, a crime boss¿ son, eighteen years ago. Tres believes Ralph who insists he did not kill White or shoot his spouse, because he knows his pal would not shoot the woman he would die for................... While Ana lies comatose and the cops hunt for Ralph, he and Tres begin making inquiries into the White cold case. Tres assumes that Ana had figured out who clubbed the serial killing White to death. That person set up Ralph to take the fall for both crimes especially the present one. Tres knows he must uncover the real culprit before the police catch both of them and throw away the key he as an accessory to Ralph¿s attempted murder...................... In his sixth appearance Tres remains competent and loyal as he works a cold case investigation while eluding a dragnet to arrest his friend for attempted murder and he for an accessory to the crime. The case is intriguing especially the flashbacks to what happened to White, an individual who readers will believe deserved to die and justice was served when he did, but the law sees that differently. Though not quite at the multiple-award winning level of SOUTHTOWN due to several ¿conveniences¿ that force Tres and Ralph on the lam. MISSION ROAD is a strong entry that fans will enjoy as the hero must serendipitously investigate two crimes almost two decades apart.................... Harriet Klausner
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