I finished The Room of White Fire by T. Jefferson Parker (2017). I have not read anything by this author. I expected a private investigator kind of novel, but got something closer in type to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stuff.
I wasn’t expecting great literature. However, I know this book won the Shamus Award and so I was thinking it would be above average.
The first quarter of the novel is very choppy; it also feels like a skeleton of a story, a draft. I didn’t like that at all. I can enjoy spare writing, but not unfinished writing. Eventually, I came to feel, because I had spent so much time with setting and characters, that maybe it was not quite so skeletal anymore.
The concept for the book is an attempt to make a story out of a PTSD-situation resulting from a black site involving torture and interrogation. There is a vague, but superficial, psychological tie-in, as well. This is where most of the novel’s development is located. The author puts most of his effort into the background of this; really working on the notions of patriotism, im/morality of torture, and wartime methods of interrogation.
Amazingly, and this is the main reason that this gets just two stars, the main character, Roland Ford, does not actually do any investigating. I mean, it seems like he does sometimes and it seems like he is thinking about the situation… but he does not actually do a blessed thing. Really. He re-traces his steps, mopes around, and generally just does nothing more than anyone would do. For someone who is ex-USMC, ex-police, and says “I’m good at finding things” – well, I would think he would be more competent than just to sit around and wait for clues to show up. His big investigative move was when he checked the laptop of the person he was looking for to find clues. Pure genius.
The only lead that he has for most of the book literally is one that walked over to him and engaged with him! (Sequoia).
The best thing that the author did was include the “Irregulars” – he keeps their backstory from us, but they are curious and interesting characters that make up for the dull main character.
I may read the next in the series. Readers who need a “throw-away” for a trip or a waiting room may find value here.