Most helpful critical review
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2004
T. Jefferson Parker is one of today's very best crime writers. Plotting, character, dialogue, all play out in a balanced and believable fashion in any given novel. "Blue Hour," "Silent Joe," take your pick. Parker is the kind of writer that makes other "name" writers jealous, simply because he's better. It's a shame his work has not found its way to the screen. But even fine writers have their beginnings, and for Parker "Laguna Heat," is his.
"Laguna Heat," is not a bad novel. In some ways it's a good one, but it is a first novel. Tom Shephard, the police detective hero of the novel is in an incomplete man. He has his demons - perhaps too many, since it seems like some sort of noir checklist. One demon in particular, his anguish over shooting a teenager, seems way overblown, given that same teenager had just opened up another cop with a knife. Then there's the divorce, the drinking, the dominating father, the missing mother, the murderer of the missing mother, and a whole can of Laguna worms, etc. Despite all of this, or because of all of them, Shephard's damaged state never really translates into a character one could care much about. In constast, look at "Joe," from "Silent Joe," another damaged figure of good, who is complex and cared for by the reader. More interesting are the various secondary characters, though even they have, by novel's end, a "stock" feel to them.
But "Laguna Heat" does have its moments. The best is perhaps Shepherd's night time swim in the ocean with his lover, Jane Algernon. This is a gorgeous passage, and alone make "Laguna Heat" worth a read. It also reveals perfectly the dark romanticism of noir:
"He kicked hard and pulled deeply to keep up with her, careful to leave a few meters between them.. Past the waves he felt the bottom falling away and knew that even a few yards from shore the ocean was much the same as it was many miles out: strong, unfathomable, unforgiving of all that is not part of it. And just as the first lappings of the waves had seemed to draw little parts of him away with them, he could now feel larger portions leaving too. He recalled that he had been married once but wasn't sure to whom. He believed that he rented an apartment somewhere in the town behind them but couldn't quote an address. He knew he was a cop on a murder case but couldn't remember the specifics. He wondered why he had ever quit surfing. But the regret soon vanished. He didn't know why and didn't want to know. Was it possible to continue this way to Hawaii, or perhaps to an uninhabited tropical island where he and Jane could live on fish and fruit, procreate, wildly, found a race? It seemed a possibility.
Then ahead of him, Jane Algernon's face collected in the darkness and it was smiling.
"Are you scared? The rocks are under us, not far," she said. Shephard could feel the churning of her legs as she kicked to stay afloat. Her hair was slicked back and the bones in her face caught the moonlight."
The above is just a portion from an extended passage. And it's such moments as these in "Laguna Heat," that signal, like lightning flashes, the writer Parker is to become.