THE BLOG
06/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Book Review: LA Outlaws

LA Outlaws
By T. Jefferson Parker
(Dutton)

One of the most prolific of Southern California mystery writers, each outing by this award-winning writer is impressive. Like Jonathan Kellerman, Michael Connelly, Denise Hamilton , James Ellroy and other California mystery masters, Parker roams the streets and highways of this large sprawling area to bring tension and ultimately insight into the wide range of characters who people this sun -baked part of America.

In his newest entry, Parker has created an unusual split character, Suzanne Jones, whose drive for excitement leads her to create another persona when she pulls off a series of fast-moving holdups, primarily at fast food restaurants that dot the area. She calls herself Allison Muretta during these crimes. This part of her in Hood, is her homage to a historic early robber known as Juan Muretta, whose wayward life may or may not have been true. To top it off, as Allison she even leaves her calling card.. But as her other personality Suzanne Jones, she is an upstanding citizen, a school history teacher with three young sons( from various fathers), who leads a very normal life during the school year.

But this summer, tipped off to a cache of diamonds being negotiated for sale by a shady character, she snags the diamonds. But in her escape she is seen by the paid killer. Lupercio. He vows to find her, grab the gems and kill her. The robbery catches the attention of the local police, especially a young officer named Hood who believes Suzanne is nothing but an innocent bystander. Intrigued, he agrees there is a need to protect her from the killer. There are a number of close calls and foiled life threatening situations. Yet soon she and the cop become romantically involved, even as the police are following up on the fast food robberies. Never stopping, at night as Allison she continues to knock off a few fast food joints along the way, never forgetting to leave her calling card.

In this stand alone novel, Parker's skill makes that split personality juggle seem understandable and intriguing. His eye for the life styles and foibles of contemporary Southern California gives the story added punch.