If the year 2005 becomes known as "The Year of Hurwitz,"
TROUBLESHOOTER will be the reason why. Greg Hurwitz has written a
number of fine books with nary a miss since THE TOWER, his debut
novel. He began a new upward trajectory, however, with THE KILL
CLAUSE, the first of his novels to feature U.S. Marshal Tim
Rackley, and 2004's THE PROGRAM continued this trend. But neither
will prepare you for the masterpiece that is TROUBLESHOOTER.
Any thriller, at its most basic level, needs a good, believable
bogeyman that will scare the heck out of the reader. TROUBLESHOOTER
has a whole group of them --- a biker gang known as the Laughing
Sinners. The Sinners seem to run the streets of southern California
with impunity, due to a combination of street smarts, mind-numbing
violence, and the legal machinations of a cunning attorney. The
book begins with the guarded transport of Den Laurey and Kaner, two
members of the Sinners' nomad chapter --- so called because they
have no fixed territory or home --- following their arrest for
murder. Their brutal and daring escape leads to the formation of a
task force charged with recapturing them, with whatever force it
takes, and bringing the Sinners down.
Rackley, who is heading up the task force, almost recaptures Laurey
but is outmanned and outgunned --- a situation that results in
tragic personal consequences for Rackley mere minutes later when
his pregnant wife Dray, herself a sheriff's deputy, is attacked and
left for dead in the bikers' wake. Rackley must detach his personal
grief and desire for revenge from his duties as task force
director, even as these elements merge and intersect as the U.S.
Marshal's Office and the Sinners play a continuous game of
cat-and-mouse for the highest possible stakes. As the task force
methodically pursues the gang, it learns that the activities of the
Sinners have consequences that will affect not only southern
California but also national security.
As always, Hurwitz's research is first-rate; combined with his
considerable narrative talents, TROUBLESHOOTER gives the reader an
over-the-shoulder view of a counterculture within a counterculture.
The Sinners, self-styled "one-percenters" --- their name based upon
the truism that 99 percent of bikers are law-abiding citizens ---
are not merely societal nonconformists following a creed of "live
and let live," but rather are outlaws at war with society, feeding
off of it even as they provide vices such as sex and drugs so
desired by some. The relationship, subtly but graphically
demonstrated here, is more parasitic than symbiotic.
Hurwitz wisely refuses to blur the lines here, choosing instead to
paint a clear picture of law enforcement and evil at their
respective best and worst while providing a breakneck narrative
that races to a conclusion --- two of them, actually --- that will
satisfy everyone, on all counts. Ultimately, TROUBLESHOOTER is an
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011