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The Last Good Guy (A Roland Ford Novel Book 3) Kindle Edition
When hired by a beautiful and enigmatic woman to find her missing younger sister, private investigator Roland Ford immediately senses that the case is not what it seems. He is soon swept up in a web of lies and secrets as he searches for the teenager, and even his new client cannot be trusted. His investigation leads him to a secretive charter school, skinhead thugs, a cadre of American Nazis hidden in a desert compound, an arch-conservative celebrity evangelist--and, finally, to the girl herself. The Last Good Guy is Ford's most challenging case to date, one that will leave him questioning everything he thought he knew about decency, honesty, and the battle between good and evil...if it doesn't kill him first.
“[An] adrenaline-charged adventure.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The Last Good Guy [is] the latest entry in an engaging series of novels by T. Jefferson Parker…All the good gals and guys in Mr. Parker’s winning story have the reader rooting for them, and of course they root for one another.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Mystery writer T. Jefferson Parker stands out with The Last Good Guy… [this] is the best Roland Ford mystery yet, and one of Parker’s strongest. It’s a twisty cautionary tale that will leave readers pondering the damage done in the name of misguided religious fervor and patriotism and yearning for more good guys like Ford to bring justice to our world.”—Los Angeles Times
“Parker tells the tale in tight, vivid prose that at times borders on the lyrical.”—Associated Press
“T. Jefferson Parker is one of our great novelists as well as thriller writers, the reasons for which are all keenly on display in The Last Good Guy… [the novel] may share ground tonally with the works of the genre’s masters, but Parker has wondrously carved out his own territory as well in crafting an extraordinary, pitch-perfect tale that just might be the best crime thriller of 2019.”—Providence Journal
“[T. Jefferson Parker] does a masterly job of ratcheting up the tension, and the often lyrical prose is a pleasure to read. This entry could well earn three-time Edgar Award–winner Parker a fourth Edgar.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In this powerful thriller, Parker leaves us aching for the damaged souls left behind by false prophets and hate-mongers, and hoping that there still really are some good guys.”—Booklist (starred review)
“In the third case for his franchise hero, the prolific Parker summons the memory of retro hard-boiled crime yarns.”—Kirkus Reviews
“As is typical for Parker's novels, the stage upon which the story unfolds is a microcosm of today's America, with racism and intolerance, the escalating struggle between conservatives and liberals and the pervasive intelligence of megachurches and the politics espoused therein. As is also typical of Parker's novels, it is a mighty fine read.”—BookPage
“Parker delivers another exceptional noir....Readers of C.J. Box will enjoy the strong character development, fans of James Patterson will delight in the twists and turns, while T.C. Boyle fans will appreciate the atmospheric California setting.”—Library Journal
“Character-driven with plenty of action and evocative SoCal scenery.”—The Day
“T. Jefferson Parker’s third Roland Ford novel (following last year’s Swift Vengeance) should interest fans of Michael Connelly and John Sandford. Parker has had a long and successful career, but Ford is perhaps his best character so far, and this series just keeps getting better.”—The Real Book Spy
“T. Jefferson Parker draws the classical hard-boiled detective story out of its mythic past and into our contemporary landscape, much like the last great exemplar of the form, Ross Macdonald—and like Macdonald, Parker goes deeper with each book. The payoff for his readers is serious thrills.”—Jonathan Lethem
“The Last Good Guy, the third outing for smart, tough, insightful, sympathetic Private Investigator Roland Ford, is nothing short of brilliant as it morphs from a simple missing persons case into a complex and nuanced exploration of the dark side of American culture.”—John Lescroart
“T. Jefferson Parker’s The Last Good Guy is a riveting crime drama with an engaging hero up against insurmountable odds as he tries to track down a woman’s missing sister. With intelligence, action, and humor, the pages turn themselves to a thrilling climax.”—Mark Greaney
“Fabulously atmospheric. Parker writes with a cinematic eye and a thrillingly dark heart.”—Peter James
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
There's this scene in the old detective movies where the investigator sits in his office, waiting for someone to come in and hire him. He's a capable-looking man. His face has character. His office is functionally furnished and poorly lit. Light and shadow. The top half of the office door is smoked glass and you can read his name in reverse.
The door is ajar and you know a woman is about to come through it, and she will be pretty, interesting, and mysterious. She will tell the investigator a story and offer him money to find the truth in it, and when he does, nothing will be the same for either of them, ever again. Somehow, you are pulling for both of them, but you get the feeling there will be a winner and a loser.
She offered her hand and I took it.
Open face, assessing blue eyes, and curly light brown hair. Shapely, not tall. Fair-skinned. A red summer dress with white polka dots on it, red espadrilles, and a shiny red belt.
She removed a small white purse from over one shoulder, smoothed her dress, and sat. Her scent was light.
Her name was Penelope Rideout and her younger sister, Daley, had run away from home. Penelope had already filed a missing-persons report, but the police wouldn't act this quickly without evidence of foul play. Of which there was none. Penelope was sure that her sister had run away, because Daley had a "wild streak" and was mixed up with a "guaranteed loser" named Nick Moreno. Daley's favorite clothes, personal items, and toiletries were missing from home. She had not responded to calls and texts, and neither had the boyfriend. Penelope had sat in her car outside Nick's dark condo last evening and most of the night, hoping they would show. She'd then driven to Oceanside PD headquarters and filed the report. Nick was twenty years old. Daley fourteen.
"I'm very worried about her, Mr. Ford. She's precocious, and Daley doesn't always make good choices. The age difference alone is just wrong. I do what I can to guide her."
"How come her parents aren't here doing this?" I asked, resting my pen.
"Mom and Dad died ten years ago," said Penelope, eyes moistening. "In a car accident outside of Eugene, Oregon. A storm. I was eighteen and became Daley's legal guardian. The judge was skeptical, but my lawyer was good. Daley was four."
She took a tissue from the purse and touched it under each eye, though I could see no tears. Neat nails, clear finish. Pushed the tissue back into her bag. She wore a slim wedding band and a sensible diamond. I did the math and came up with twenty-eight-year-old Penelope Rideout. Or twenty-nine, depending on her birthday. Twelve years younger than me, plus or minus.
"Has this happened before?" I asked.
"When did you see her last?"
"Yesterday morning I dropped her off at school. When I got home from work around four, I saw she'd been there. This was not unusual. I waited until evening. I've always tried to give her an appropriate amount of freedom. When she didn't come home for dinner and homework, as is our agreement, I called. Texted. Her, and Nick. As I told you."
"What school?" I asked.
"Monarch Academy, Carlsbad. She's in the eighth grade. I held her back a year because I thought it was the right thing to do."
"Are you employed, Mrs. Rideout?"
"I'm a freelance technical editor. Aerospace and defense. Job shops, mostly. I make good money and take time off when I need to."
I asked her husband's name, and what he did for a living.
"Colonel Richard Hauser," she said. "He's a Marine pilot."
"You kept your maiden name."
"I wanted continuity for Daley. Because of Mom and Dad. It was all very hard at first. I'm also proud to be an Alabama Rideout and I don't want us lost to history. Daley and I are the last of our line who are young enough to continue it. Can you find her?"
Careful here. In my seven years as a PI I've never failed to find the person I was hired to find. Not that it's easy locating someone who doesn't want to be found. But it's my specialty. I have enthusiasm for such work because I lost someone close to me, who I know cannot be found.
"I'm good at what I do."
Those wide blue eyes again, waiting. "I certainly hope so. Daley means the world to me. To us."
I handed her the standard contract for an individual: eight hundred dollars for my first eight hours, partially refundable if I get results in less. If not, the go-forward fees are set out, though I'll lower them sometimes. I've recently raised, steeply, my rates for most corporations and religious groups, and of course for political organizations of any kind.
Penelope Rideout squared the contract on the desk. Then brought a white phone from her purse and set it beside the papers. Next, a red checkbook. She looked up at me, then back to the paper, and began reading. The standard contract is three pages, single-spaced. I tried to keep it brief and unambiguous, but it's still a lot of words. She read every one. I watched her curls bob as she nodded and ran her finger along the sentences with a technical editor's concentration.
Through my office window I took in my view of Fallbrook's Main Street-a yogurt shop, an art gallery, a store specializing in vacuum cleaners and bicycles. A bank, a Mexican restaurant, a karate dojo, a women's boutique. It was September and hot. Jacarandas and orchid trees still in bloom. Fallbrook is a small, fragrant, old-fashioned town, a mom-and-pop place. We have characters. We have a peaceful side and a rough side. We are awash in classic cars, gleaming old vehicles sailing yachtlike down our country roads. We bill our town as the avocado capital of the world.
Finally finished with the contract, Penelope Rideout tapped the signature lines with her reading finger. "I don't have eight hundred dollars in cash."
"A check is fine."
"Do you deal with many dishonest people?"
"Not if I can avoid it. The cash policy helps."
"I've been cheated before. It makes you feel angry and at fault at the same time. Here are pictures of her."
She handed me the white phone. I scrolled across. Daley Rideout was pretty, like her sister. Same alert blue eyes, same curly light brown hair. Her face had an openness like her sister's, frame after frame.
I thought of my own siblings-a sister and two brothers-and how different we had been. We strove to be. Turf. Outta my face. But we always stuck together when things got serious. We're still very different individuals, the Ford gang. We still come together if we need to.
"That's Nick beside her, with the beard and the man bun," said Penelope. "He walks dogs for a living."
Nick was tall and handsome and looked proud of himself.
We traded phone and check. Her handwriting was loopy and childlike. I gave her a business card and asked her to send the pictures of Daley and one of Nick to my cell number in text and email.
"Did any neighbors see Daley come home from school?" I asked.
"No. Most of them work." Penelope sent me the pictures, and a moment later I heard them arrive on my phone. She bit her bottom lip, shaking her head as if in doubt or disbelief.
"You were recommended by someone I used to work with," she said. "I called him last night from my stakeout. Marcus Proetto. You located his daughter when she ran away. I did a brief Internet search of you after talking to him."
A year ago, Marcus had employed me to find his young daughter, who had given him and his wife quite a scare by heading to Lake Tahoe with a girlfriend. They were all of fifteen years old but had finagled Greyhound tickets from an adult friend of a friend. I corralled them in the Harrah's steakhouse and told their escort-a sleek, fast-eyed young man who had offered to buy them dinner-to get lost. He was unhappy about that. I boxed heavyweight in the Marines and am still happy to hit people who need it, and most men want no part of me.
"I've been told that the first twenty-four hours are crucial," Penelope said. "It's now been twenty-four hours, almost exactly, since I dropped her off at school."
I handed her a fresh legal pad and a pen and asked her to write down Daley's and Richard Hauser's contact numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers if she knew them, and the names and numbers of friends, relatives, and employers. Nick's contact info and condo address, very important. And anything else she could give me.
She wrote carefully and slowly, in silence. Curls bobbing again. When she was done, she pushed the note pad toward me.
"I have more of her friends' names and numbers at home on my computer," she said.
"Those might be helpful. What was Daley wearing when you dropped her off at school yesterday?"
"Monarch Academy has a code," said Penelope. "So a gray skirt just above the knee, and a white short-sleeved blouse. White athletic shoes. It was all in her hamper, though, when I came home from work. I don't know what she might have worn to leave home. She likes skinny jeans and tees with bangles and pop-star graphics on them-Pink and Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys. I noticed that she'd taken those three particular shirts. And a black tee with an image of Beethoven. You know, with all the hair. She took her retro canvas sneakers, too-pink and black. Her travel guitar and rolling carry-on were gone."
"What's Nick drive?"
"A white van with a papillon face painted on the doors. Larger than life, of course. For his business. Does this mean you'll find Daley?"
"It means I'll try."
I set my pen on the yellow legal pad. Penelope scanned my face with her blue eyes, waiting. In the good morning light now coming through the blinds I saw that her eyeliner was smeared and one side of her hair was a little flat and the chipper red polka-dot dress was finely wrinkled and darker under her arms. The long September night waiting in her car, I assumed.
"You've had quite a night, Mrs. Rideout. But you need to fill out missing-persons reports. There are four federal, three state, two local, and three private sites I recommend. Those pictures you have of Daley will be helpful, if you're willing to post them."
"Of course I am."
"I can have some coffee or tea sent up, if you'd like."
"Coffee with lots of cream. Thank you."
The Dublin Pub downstairs opens early for breakfast and I'm on good terms with the help. I tip heavily.
One and a half hours and a pot of coffee later we had filed the twelve missing-persons reports and made six digital pictures of Daley Rideout available for distribution.
We stood and I walked her to the door. "If I haven't located Daley by late afternoon, I'll want to see her room, and I'd like that longer list of friends and their numbers from you."
"Try not to worry, Mrs. Rideout. Most of these cases resolve quickly and happily."
"When I get an Amber Alert on my phone, it makes my scalp crawl," she said. "I memorize the child's description. I write down the car and license plate to look for. Now maybe I'll get one for my own sister."
"Amber Alerts are only for child abductions." These comforting words from Roland Ford, friend of the afflicted. I still catch myself talking like a cop sometimes.
"Do you have a little sister?" she asked.
"Imagine her gone, Mr. Ford."
"Call me Roland."
"Roland, she's the most important thing in my life. Get it?"
Through the window I watched her walk up Main Street, stop beside a yellow VW Beetle with its black ragtop up, then aim a key fob at the car. Noted the plates, because that's what I do. Saw the lights blip and her pale shoulder turn in the sunlight and the yellow door swing open.
I knocked on Nick Moreno's condo door and waited. This was an Encinitas complex named Las Brisas, the breezes, which at nine o'clock this morning were onshore, damp, and cool. From the ground-floor porch I could see the street where Penelope Rideout had parked for her night-long vigil. I pictured her half dozing, head against the rest and turned to the driver's-side window. Moreno's place had that nobody-home feel. I tried the doorbell again, heard the faint chime inside. The door was locked.
I followed a walkway around to the back gate. It opened to a concrete patio and a slope of ivy topped by a white vinyl privacy fence. Potted plants, a wound green garden hose, and a garage door, closed but not locked. I hit the lights, heard the fluorescent tubes buzz, saw the white van and the enlarged papillon regarding me pertly. Stepped up close and saw the van was empty. Stood there for a moment, looking at the tools of Nick Moreno's trade neatly stacked on a shelf: boxes of dog treats and plastic poop bags and paper towels.
One of the adjacent neighbors, Lydia, hadn't seen Nick in weeks. The other wasn't home.
The upstairs tenant was an affable young man named Scott Chan. When I told him my name and business, he said he hadn't seen Nick lately. When I asked about suspicious activity downstairs, Chan said not really, but the day before, he'd seen a silver Expedition SUV pull into the driveway. A round blue emblem on the driver's door, but he couldn't read it-bad angle. Two men got out and went into Nick's. This was around noon. Just a few minutes later, he heard them come back out. Saw them through his upstairs office window.
Then Chan looked at me, waiting, pursing his lips against something he didn't want to say.
"Was a girl with them?"
"When they came out of the condo, yes," he said. "She worked with him sometimes. With Nick. I don't know her name."
His description fit Daley Rideout's, down to her bouncy hair and bright blue eyes. He said she seemed to know the two SUV men. They were all talking. They seemed purposeful. She had rolling luggage and a guitar.
The men were in their late twenties or early thirties. One wore tan pants and a black golf shirt. He was 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. Neat, clean-cut guys, Chan said. Could have been cops. Or Mormons. Ha. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B07KNQR16C
- Publisher : G.P. Putnam's Sons (August 13, 2019)
- Publication date : August 13, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 2508 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 350 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #242,201 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The reason I do not give five stars is that I am tired of fiction authors dropping their political beliefs into their work in a sly and sneaky manner. Parker drones on about the virtuous Central American illegal alien ... turns around 9/11 where the evil Americans plot to kill Muslims... the complaint that architectural styles developed in the Renaissance are anachronistic.
These narrative anomaly’s can get cumbersome when they all land square on one side of the coin.
Here Roland is hired by a woman named Penelope Rideout who wants him to find her sister, Daley. Their parents are dead and Penelope is Daley's legal guardian. Daley is barely a tween-ager who has an interest in older men. When one is found with a bullet in his forehead Roland realizes that this is going to be much more than a simple missing persons case.
In the course of his investigation he will meet a preacher whose skills and libido match that of Elmer Gantry, the head of a white supremacy network, his addled heiress wife and a security company whose acronym veils one of the story's more interesting mysteries. We visit the San Onofre nuclear power plant (now decommissioned; it actually exists) and a date farm (i.e. a farm that grows dates, not a hayride destination), a posh La Jolla restaurant, Nixon's old stamping grounds in San Clemente and some nice surfing sites. A local resident, as noted above, Parker knows whereof he speaks and conjures up a vivid setting, replete with local flora and some interesting fauna (e.g. a falcon who will solve any pigeon or seagull problems you might be experiencing in a single power dive).
The story is excellent, the characters fascinating. The plot rhythms are precise and as smooth as polished marble. This is TJP's 25th novel; I've been with him from the get-go, with LAGUNA HEAT. He is a master story teller and THE LAST GOOD GUY is top flight material.
The sex and violence are largely PG; you need not read the Roland Ford novels in order, though you will probably want to do so. If you have not yet discovered Jeff Parker's crime fiction you have many treats in store.
Roland Ford is a former heavyweight boxer whose one professional bout ended in a knockout defeat that left him with a scar that tingles whenever danger approaches. While a soldier, he fought in Iraq, specifically in Fallujah, and saw and experienced more horrific violence than he could have ever imagined, giving him a deep well of pessimism and regret. He was briefly married to his wife, Justine, the daughter of rich parents who bequeathed him and his wife the Rancho de Los Robles in Fallbrook, California as a wedding gift. Justine died in a tragic plane crash a year or so later in her plane, Hall Pass. Having caught the bug of freedom a private plane can provide, Roland purchased another and named it Hall Pass II, using it to fly to various locations in the investigations this series is concerned with.
Ford’s backstory includes his stint in the San Diego Sheriff’s Department where his partner shot and killed a homeless black man, mistaking his wallet for a gun. Roland held fire and his testimony ended his partner’s career, earning him the enmity of the one-time fellow police officers he encounters. This background information is included in each of the three books. While Parker’s writing is very good, I had problems with each of the stories.
In “The Last Good Guy”, Penelope Rideout hires Roland to find her sister, who was seen leaving the site of a murder in the company of members of a mysterious security firm. His investigation takes him to a date farm in the Imperial Valley where he receives a vicious beating at the hands of six heavily armed men who corral him riding ATVs. The rest of the story is about his investigation, Penelope’s changing back-story and the big tent Pastor who’s opened a megachurch near Oceanside.
A truly surprising revelation is made that kicks the story into another gear but when we learn that White Supremacists are the main bad guys, the story veered off the road for me.
We’re treated to a White Supremacist convention where all manner of conspiracy theories and books are for sale, some of them by famous writers (unnamed), and the repulsive beliefs of some of the congregants. This stretched credulity for me and served as a distraction for the rest of the novel. Parker’s writing is strong and the final confrontations are convincing and well written.
Personally, I don’t know any White Supremacists, nor would I have a clue where they might congregate. If I did, I’d avoid them like the plague. My impression of the few meetings of this sort I’m aware of that have been reported in the press, there were more members of the press attending than actual congregants.
The first in the series, “The Room of White Fire”, was concerned with a clandestine government-sponsored torture group that targeted terrorist enemies in Iraq.
The following novel, “Swift Vengeance”, was about a terrorist planning an attack on San Diegans as revenge for his father’s death in Syria at the hands of drone pilot operators in the United States. Much ringing of hands with the finger of guilt pointed at United States Military personnel.
Now I know there are people who will share this moral contempt and he paints his villains as completely contemptuous monsters for the most part. He adds aspects of the compromised characters in “Swift Vengeance” to show them as morally compromised but not evil. Not so the villains in “The Room of White Fire” or “The Last Good Guy”. Whatever shred of decency he might have hinted at matters little at the conclusions.
A positive note are the characters dubbed the Irregulars that stay at the Rancho de Los Robles, rescued by Roland and given a chance to heal. They’re all misfits and yet fit in. One, in particular, is Burt, a man of a mysterious past, a short man, who’s underestimated and always seems to show up at the right time to back Roland Ford up and save his life.
Parker acquitted himself well with his main character, Roland Ford. His back-story is compelling and his interactions with the various characters he comes across are convincing. I read and loved his Charlie Hood series, which is wholly more compelling than this series. He included supernatural elements in that series that were rolled out in a beguiling fashion. The Roland Ford novels contain only a hint of that through the misty character of his dead wife, Justine. The Charlie Hood series was about the gun trade and Mexican cartels and the dangerous characters on both sides of the border. Contemporary and compelling. Roland Ford does misunderstood terrorists, bad Americans and White Supremacists. Some people think White Supremacists are the greatest threat facing society today. I find them marginalized and ridiculous and in far smaller numbers than fear-mongers claim. I’m disappointed that Parker would resort to this sort of villain but much of mainstream entertainment is still obsessed with Hitler’s Germany, the last defeated enemy everyone can agree on. Funny how so many are focused on the past where 20-20 vision is clear, yet see no threats in our current world. White Supremacists may fit in with what’s being taught at the University but they too see it as a systematic rather than an immediate, corporeal threat.
As for “The Last Good Guy’s” villains, Parker failed to provide a compelling back-story for the various racist bad guys other than one of them being caught up in a Boko Haram massacre while he was serving as a Christian missionary in Africa. This unexplained transformation shows undeserved hostility toward Christianity by having him become a racist hater.
Stylistically, Parker avoids the use of the final and in the last of a compound sentence, a choice which does not bother me. His frequent use of sentence fragments also doesn’t bother me. There’s a dreamy quality to his prose, I admire. All three novels are told in the first person, a choice I’ve loved since I discovered Raymond Chandler.
PBS is good. Old rich white guys are bad.
So boring. Please, spare me.