cover image Red Light

Red Light

T. Jefferson Parker. Hyperion Books, $23.95 (326pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-6600-7

The murders of two prostitutes 30 years apart provide the framework for this fine crime melodrama about police corruption and political ambition in Southern California's Orange County. The sequel to 1997's The Blue Hour finds homicide detective Merci Rayborn investigating the shooting death of a young hooker. As much as Rayborn hates to admit it, the primary suspect is her own boyfriend, Sgt. Mike McNally, who was a close friend of the prostitute, but claims he never had sex with her. As Rayborn struggles with the emotions of having to expose and arrest her lover, her boss drops another case on her--the unsolved 1969 slaying of another prostitute, found dead in an empty field. Rayborn wonders why such a seemingly simple case was never solved. The more she plows into it, however, the uglier it gets. Details suggest that corrupt political leaders and cops conspiring on a shady development deal may have committed the murder. And, oddly, some of the principals in that event seem to be reemerging in the case against McNally. Parker's latest sizzles along, an infectious blend of atmosphere, action and passion. Longtime fans will recognize formulaic twists and secondary story lines that the author has used before, but the plot stays fresh as it weaves between present and past. Particularly effective is Parker's recreation of Orange County's growth spurt in the 1960s, when unbridled development, backroom land deals and strict political conservatism were the order of the day. And Rayborn, the latest in Parker's line of protagonists with obsessive streaks, impresses as an absorbingly hardheaded hero, one who learns difficult truths about herself as well as about her cases. 7-city author tour. (Apr.)