Related topics

Author unleashes non-stop action in ‘Swift Vengeance’

August 21, 2018 GMT

“Swift Vengeance” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), by T. Jefferson Parker

A drone circles like a bird of prey, waiting for a clear shot at a terrorist. Thousands of miles away in America, its operator seems, at first glance, to be playing a video game.

Military drone operators know they are dealing in death, but there is something oddly impersonal about killing from such a distance. For those who are hunted, it doesn’t feel that way.

T. Jefferson Parker asks readers to think about that as he unleashes non-stop action in “Swift Vengeance,” the second novel in his series of thrillers featuring Ronald Ford, an Iraq war combat veteran now working as a private investigator.


The terrorist knows he is a target, so he’s been staying out of sight or surrounding himself with innocents. But on this day, he makes a mistake.

On the video screen that the operator has been staring at for months, the terrorist suddenly appears alone. She gets a thumbs-up from her superior and unleashes a missile. But because of the distance between operator and drone, her video feed has a five-second delay.

In those five seconds, something could go wrong. This time it does, and innocent people die.

Much later, retired drone operator Lindsay Rakes approaches Ford and begs for his help. One of her former colleagues has been murdered, his head severed. Lindsay, fearing the killing is retribution for the drone strike, thinks she may be next.

Ford hides her at his place northwest of San Diego and sets out, along with the FBI, to identify the killer. But before long, the killer, who calls himself “Caliphornia,” strikes again.

For the last decade or so, Parker has been using the popular form of the thriller to explore the issues of our day. His previous series, an uneven but sometimes brilliant one featuring undercover cop Charlie Hood, examined the devastation wrought by Mexican crime cartels and America’s war on drugs.

Starting with “The Room of White Fire,” the new series succeeds not only in entertaining but also in challenging readers to ponder the circle of vengeance unleashed by the Iraq war and America’s seemingly endless war on terror.


Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”