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The Border Lords: A Charlie Hood Novel    by T. Jefferson Parker order for
Border Lords
by T. Jefferson Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

T. Jefferson Parker's The Border Lords is the fourth (following Iron River) in his series starring L.A. sheriff's deputy Charlie Hood, currently on loan to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). Though this thriller can be enjoyed on its own, reading the earlier books first would make it easier to understand relationships and references to previous events.

As the thriller opens, Charlie's good friend, ATF agent Sean Ozburn, is deep undercover as an independent operator, dealing in guns and meth with drug lords on both sides of the border. Charlie and fellow agents monitor a house in Buenavista, California that Ozburn purchased for the use of the North Baja Cartel. As they watch the four young killers in the house go about their business, their screens go dark. At the safe house they find the gunmen slaughtered and evidence that Ozburn shut down the surveillance - has he gone rogue?

When Charlie contacts Ozburn's beloved wife Seliah, she shares a series of disturbing digital videos that Sean had sent to her. What she does not share are the physical and mental changes that both she and her husband have been experiencing since they took a break together in Costa Rica and spent a great deal of time with an Irish priest, Joe Leftwich - did they both catch a 'flu? Readers see Ozburn making deals to acquire more guns and meeting with Father Joe, who seems to be mentoring him.

Another story thread follows corrupt L.A. deputy Bradley Jones (with whom Charlie Hood has a history), exploiting his cartel connections to look like a hero to his bosses and the press. Carlos Herredia, who runs the North Baja Cartel and believes that Ozburn betrayed his men to the Gulf Cartel, offers to arrange for Jones to arrest the undercover agent in the act of buying machine pistols. In turn, Jones offers to recruit other lawmen to protect Herredia's interests in LA.

The plot steadily thickens, with a deep vein of horror running through it, as Charlie heads to Costa Rica on his own dime to try to find out what's happened to his friend - did the enormous stress of working undercover for so long cause a breakdown, did Sean catch a virus, or is something else going on? Father Joe regularly stirs the pot and another elusive character from past episodes (Mike Finnegan) seems to be manipulating events. What are their motivations?

Parker delivers quite a few shocks as the story progresses - especially the cause of the Ozburns' symptoms and Father Joe's identity - but not all readers' questions are answered by the end of The Border Lords. Guess we'll just have to wait for more Charlie Hood adventures - bring them on!

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