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Mission Road


Mission Road

One of my personal benchmarks for good writing has to do with the
backlot of the story, if you will. If I find, while reading a tale,
that the narrative makes me want to jump into the car and drive to
the city where the novel is set --- book in hand, of course ---
then the author has pushed my buttons.

Accordingly, Rick Riordan is on my list of must-read authors. His
novels, featuring San Antonio-based private investigator Tex
Navarre, make me yearn for the city of St. Anthony, a place to
which I have never been. Riordan sets up a deceptively simple plot
and makes the most of every single element, resulting in a
riveting, attention-grabbing narrative that once begun is
impossible to put down. Most significantly, however, Riordan has
created a body of work that subtly paints a mural of words and
images, combining the best and worst elements of both cultures. His
latest book is no exception.

MISSION ROAD finds Navarre, the ultimate stand-up guy, involved
with a childhood friend who is on the run, wanted for a crime he
did not commit. Ralph Arguello has a shady past that has cast a
long shadow into his present. The owner of a chain of legitimate
pawnshops, his underworld connections don't seem to have affected
his marriage to a respected San Antonio policewoman. Newly
evaluated DNA evidence, however, appears to tie Arguello to a
murder committed two decades previously. The victim, Frankie White,
an old acquaintance of Navarre's and Arguello's, was rumored to be
connected to a series of rapes and murders that terrorized the San
Antonio community in the late 1980s. But Arguello is on the run not
because of his possible involvement in White's long-unsolved
murder, but because of a more immediate problem: Ana, Arguello's
wife, has been found shot, perhaps mortally wounded, in their
kitchen, and all signs point to Arguello as the murderer.

Navarre literally is the only person who Arguello can trust. Thus,
Navarre is drawn into a deadly crossfire between the police and San
Antonio's criminal element, which wants Arguello gone for its own
reasons. Attorney Maia Lee, Navarre's love interest, also is put
into the mix when she reluctantly begins investigating the charges,
new and old, against Arguello, if only to keep Navarre safe. Her
investigation not only uncovers a web of deception that stretches
two decades into the past but also puts her in danger at a time
when she and Navarre are approaching a potential crossroads in
their relationship.

Riordan's critical acclaim has grown at a pace a bit faster than
that of his commercial status, a state of affairs that hopefully
will change with MISSION ROAD. Riordan does a masterful job of
capturing the flavor and exotica of San Antonio while presenting
what at first blush appears to be a simple A-B-C whodunit and
transforming it into a complex, well-told drama that does not
finish giving up all of its secrets until the very last page.
MISSION ROAD demonstrates why Riordan and Navarre are deserving of
the marquee status that they undoubtedly will attain one day.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

Mission Road
by Rick Riordan

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553801856
  • ISBN-13: 9780553801859