Review

Southtown

by Rick Riordan

About the Book

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Author
Interview






Rick Riordan is a member of that very small fraternity of writers
who seems to have been gathering an ever-larger collection of
accolades almost from the first time that he set pen to paper. He
has been awarded all three of the mystery genre's highest prizes
--- the Shamus, Edgar and Anthony awards --- and sustains the
momentum that he has painstakingly built up over the course of his
previous five novels with the publication of SOUTHTOWN.

The focus of SOUTHTOWN is a Frankensteinian monster named Will
Stirman. Stirman is not an artificial construct; his similarity to
Shelley's creation arises from his modification and moral
destruction from outside forces. Riordan gives subtle but telling
revelations into Stirman's character almost from the opening
paragraph of SOUTHTOWN. Stirman, when we are first introduced to
him, is a trustee in a maximum-security prison. The opening setting
of SOUTHTOWN is rife with tension with the revelation of Stirman's
intentions to escape from prison and exact a measure of
long-simmering revenge upon those who irrevocably changed his
world, those who abruptly took from him his one shot at redemption
and all that he held dear.

Tres Navarre, the private investigator introduced in Riordan's
first novel BIG RED TEQUILA, is in the path of Stirman's juggernaut
only by circumstance. Navarre is employed by Erainya Manos, the
head of a struggling San Antonio private investigation firm and the
widow of one of the men from whom Stirman is belatedly seeking
revenge and retribution. Stirman's other target is Sam Barrera, the
head of his own PI firm, which is Manos's main competition. Barrera
is sinking into the dark well of dementia and trying unsuccessfully
to hide it. Locked within his memory is the secret that is both
catalyst and key to Stirman's vendetta.

While Navarre is the connection point for many of the characters
involved, he almost seems here to be a guest in his own book,
surrounded by a cast of fascinating characters who are by turns
blessed and flawed in great and terrible ways; they are ultimately
more interesting than he is. This is initially a bit disconcerting,
but Riordan's craftsmanship is such that one quickly gets used to
the idea that it is Stirman, not Navarre, who is ultimately the
focal point of SOUTHTOWN. Riordan painstakingly builds to an
apocalyptic climax that explodes on several fronts, all of which
ultimately lead to an enigmatic but oddly satisfying ending.

Riordan touches occasionally into territory mined, but by no means
depleted, by James Lee Burke and Stephen Hunter; readers of both
these authors will find much to enjoy with Riordan as well. Riordan
demonstrates with SOUTHTOWN that the accolades he has received were
not by default; he is here to stay.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Southtown
by Rick Riordan

  • Publication Date: April 27, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553801848
  • ISBN-13: 9780553801842