20 December 2015

Kill the Messenger

Synopsis from back cover: Bike messenger Jace Damon is on his last delivery of a long day – a package from one of L.A.'s sleaziest defense attorneys, Lenny Lowell. But when Jace tries to make the drop, he is chased, shot at, and barely escapes with the package – and his life. Meanwhile, Lowell has been murdered and Jace finds himself suspect number one.

In a city fueled by money, celebrity, and sensationalism, the slaying of a bottom-feeder like Lowell won't make headlines. So when LAPD's elite show up, homicide detective Kev Parker wants to know why. Parker begins a search for answers that will lead him to a killer – or to the end of his career. Because if there's one lesson Parker has learned over the years, it's that in a town built on fame and fantasy, delivering the truth can be murder.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Bantam Dell, 2006.

How acquired: From my mom.

My thoughts: My mom gave me three or four Tami Hoag books when she was culling books from her collection. This is the first one I've read, and it certainly won't be the last.

From page one we are immediately plunged into the world of bike messengers, as we ride along with Jace through L.A. traffic. I'd not realized what a dangerous and perilous occupation it was, with the messengers putting their lives at risk every day just to deliver documents from one place to another. It was a tense and gripping opening for a book that stayed pretty tense and gripping all the way to the end.

There are lots of characters, and the narrative jumps around at times from one character's POV to another's. We first meet Jace, and stay with him for awhile as he goes on that last ill-fated ride, where the danger he faces is more than the ordinary traffic hazards. He finds himself being chased by a man in a long black car, and while he manages to get away, it's not without injury to himself and destruction to his bike. The attorney he made the pick up from is killed shortly after Jace leaves his office, and whoever killed him is now after Jace and whatever is in the package he carries.

Kev Parker is the lead detective investigating the attorney's murder. He used to be an arrogant hot shot whose career bit the dust after he scuttled a prior investigation. The more involved he becomes in this case, and the more he learns, the more it looks like it could be the case that brings him back. Or the one that ends his career altogether.

There are many other characters seamlessly woven into the plot, and the author does a wonderful job with developing each one, but most particularly (besides Jace and Parker) Jace's younger brother, Tyler. He's a wise beyond his years ten year old who never hesitates to tell an adult he's smarter than they are (with a high IQ to back up that claim), but the author manages to stay away from the dreaded precocious plot moppet trope and make Tyler a realistic little boy. Even when we don't really learn much about a character, he or she is still vivid and individual. And with the detailed descriptions of the city and the characters' surroundings at any given time, L.A. is as much a character as any of the hapless humans roaming it's streets. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and there's not a lot of deviation or surprise in that particular characterization, until suddenly there is.

The action zips along at a quick pace, and without being predictable. KILL THE MESSENGER is an absorbing read with a satisfying conclusion and, for me anyway, a perfect introduction to Tami Hoag's work. 

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