cover image Big Red Tequila

Big Red Tequila

Rick Riordan. Bantam, $7.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-553-57644-3

It's not the plot that makes this a stand-out--Tres Navarre is a loner returning to his hometown to investigate and avenge an unsolved murder that he witnessed a decade before. And the supporting characters look pretty familiar--a crooked construction company, corrupt cops, old enemies who resent Tres poking around. What makes this a truly worthy debut is Riordan's voice. Hard to escape calling it hard-boiled Tex-Mex, but that's what it is. The dialogue is terse and the long first-person descriptions show an unbeatable flair for detail: ""We pulled into a gravel lot outside the world's smallest outdoor cantina. Three green picnic tables squatted on a red concrete slab. In the back, a stack of fruit crates and an old Coca-Cola cooler passed for the bar. The whole place was ringed by a low cinder-block wall and covered by sagging corrugated tin, strung with the obligatory Christmas lights. Nobody had bothered to put up a sign for the cantina. It just naturally radiated conjunto music and the promise of cold beer."" You can almost feel the summer storms rolling over south Texas. (June)