Gregg Hurwitz's Tim Rackley is an intriguing, solid and at times
unpredictable character, a deputy U.S. Marshal who is just this
side of believable and almost larger than life. LAST SHOT,
Hurwitz's latest work, brings the conflict between Rackley's duty
to uphold the law and his personal feelings front and center.
The book begins with an up close and personal look inside Terminal
Island Penitentiary, which ends in a daring and ingenious escape.
Walker Jameson, the escapee who draws Rackley into the chase, is a
dishonored marine who had seen action on several war fronts before
being convicted of weapon profiteering. Jameson's escape is quite
puzzling. Given that he had been serving his prison sentence
without incident and was due to be released in a year, it doesn't
make sense for him to do such a thing now. There is also the "how"
behind the escape. The process by which Rackley solves the mystery
of Jameson's prison break plan is classic and in some ways is my
favorite part of LAST SHOT.
Having determined the method of Jameson's escape, Rackley must then
figure out Jameson's motivation. The only intervening event in
Jameson's life is the apparent suicide of his sister Tess, an
occurrence that was at odds with her behavior. As Rackley slowly
and methodically uncovers the circumstances behind Tess's death,
Jameson, always a step or two ahead, unleashes a vengeful storm of
death across Los Angeles. The intriguing element here is that
Jameson isn't wrong --- not by a long shot --- and Hurwitz walks a
taut tightrope, keeping the reader's sympathies in flux between
cheering Jameson on and waiting for the ultimate confrontation
between him and Rackley.
LAST SHOT is full of subtle comparisons and contrasts that nicely
balance the riveting action and suspense that have been the
trademarks of Hurwitz's previous Rackley novels. Rackley has
achieved a domestic peace of sorts, falling into the role of an
overprotective father who requires the balance and wisdom of his
wife, a former peace officer herself. Even though his professional
life is chaotic, Rackley seeks --- requires --- the quiet and
stability of his home life, wishing (sometimes desperately) to
compartmentalize one from the other.
If there is a weakness in LAST SHOT, it is the ultimate villain of
the piece --- the pharmaceutical industry --- which has become an
easy, predictable and questionable target in all too many novels.
This is a minor quibble, however. The combination of Hurwitz's
riveting narrative and sympathetic characterizations will keep you
reading at breakneck speed from explosive beginning to poignant
end, and wanting more.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 30, 2010