Friday, October 31, 2014

Big Red Tequila

My daughter had really enjoyed a couple of "young adult" book series by author Rick Riordan, including Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Kane Chronicles. Two years ago for Christmas I bought her the seven books in Riordan's Tres Navarre series. When the stack sat on her bookshelf untouched for quite a long time, I asked her about it. She told me that she started reading the first book in the series, but she just wasn't that into western novels. As I hated to think that these books would go unread, I added them to my list. Just a few pages into the first book, Big Red Tequila, it became clear why my daughter had stopped reading these books. They were definitely not "young adult" novels. They are full on grown-up stories, with grown-up themes, action, and dialogue. However, this first book was a winner. A thoroughly enjoyable story, with a level of humor from the protagonist that reminded me of several books that I have read from Dean Koontz.

The story involves Jackson "Tres" Navarre, who grew up in a small town on the outskirts of San Antonio. Tres' father had been the local sheriff, but when he was murdered right in front of young Tres, he took the first opportunity he could to distance himself from the haunting scenes and memories. The murder case went unsolved and eventually became a distant memory. Tres had left his girlfriend Lillian behind in his exodus, and this parting had always eaten at him. After 10 years of living in California, Lillian asked Tres to come back to Texas to give them another shot. Feeling that he needed to face up to what he left behind, Tres and his cat Robert Johnson return. Yet it doesn't take long before Tres meets up with folks who subtly try to intimidate him. As he pushed back, the heat on him turned up. When Lillian disappears, Tres is quickly up to his neck in colorful characters and suspects, all of which also seem to have some connection back to his father.

While none of the characters is fully fleshed out, Riordan provides enough so that you begin to fill in the missing backstories on your own. Slick politicians, eccentric widows, affected artists, loyal bumpkins, and desperate hoodlums. All populating a small town setting that is painted with such clarity you can hear the jukebox from the cantina. A very enjoyable read. I move now to the second book in the series, The Widower's Two-Step.