by Bruce TierneyAugust, 2005
Mystery of the month
Kudos to Texas mystery writer Rick Riordan for the darkly satisfying new Tres Navarre novel, Mission Road. Private investigator Navarre plies his trade in Austin, Texas. Like most of us, he has grown older and settled down a bit over the course of the past several years. He has taken up with a young Chinese-American woman, and they seem to have fashioned a pleasant and workable living arrangement. So it is something of a surprise when Navarre's boyhood friend, Ralph Arguello, shows up on his doorstep, bleeding profusely. It seems that Arguello was about to be fingered by his policewoman wife for a murder that had taken place some 20 years beforehand. To make things worse, someone has shot Arguello's wife (he swears he didn't do it), and she is hanging on by a thread in the intensive care unit. The cops think Arguello was responsible. Arguello enlists Navarre's help in searching for the current-day killer and resolving the major inconsistencies surrounding the decades-old case. As the dragnet closes in, the tension becomes palpable; there is really nowhere for the beleaguered duo to turn, except to Navarre's competent girlfriend, who stage-manages brilliantly from the sidelines. Riordan uses the plot device of the flashback, cutting between the present and the mid-1980s, to excellent effect. Although the reader will have a pretty good idea of the identities of the bad guys (and/or women) fairly early on, Mission Road doles out its surprises sparingly, saving the best one for the final page (no kidding!). Riordan, whose first book for young readers is reviewed in this issue, is a triple-crown award winner (the Shamus, the Edgar and the Anthony, the three most prestigious awards in mystery circles), one of only a handful of contemporary authors accorded all three honors. With books like Mission Road to his credit, it is easy to see why.