Truth or Die, by Jack Lynch *****

truthordie“These fellows in their cammies offering their guns for hire would know about things like T-ambushes, wind drift and long-range rifle fire, and maybe a boobie trap or two. I knew about close-in fire, street work and fear.”

Originally published under the title “Monterey”, this is the sixth installment in the Peter Bragg series, and the pace is as taut as piano wire. Don’t count on falling asleep just after you finish it; allow time for your heart to stop pounding and your blood pressure to ease up a bit. It’s an outstanding thriller that left me breathless.

It’s a shame the writer is no longer living and can’t write a bazillion more novels for us to enjoy; he could wiggle a finger and I would follow him anywhere. His series does not have to be read in order; this one is great as a stand-alone novel. And by now I am also supposed to have told you that thanks to Net Galley and the lovely fellows at Brash Books, I read this free as a DRC. Had it cost me actual dollars, it would have been well worth it.

Bragg is back in California where he belongs, and he’s spending some time with girlfriend Allison Stone. Whilst on vacation, however, an old friend of Bragg’s is widowed, and is a suspect in her husband’s murder. She’s not a very nice person; in fact, she’s a pain in the ass. But Bragg is convinced of her innocence, and she has even gone to her relatives, hat in hand, in order to come up with his fee. He’s in it now, and Bragg always plays to win.

Though it’s set in the 1980’s, the lack of technology (no satellites; when you are stuck out there alone, you are seriously alone!) and Bragg’s hard-boiled demeanor give this series a strong noir flavor. I appreciate a detective that knows he needs to have his gun handy. This is the USA, for heaven’s sake! Bad guys always pack heat. We retired school teachers can stay inside, lock the door, and let the dog guard our homes, but Bragg is chasing bad guys, and he goes in prepared. It’s a good thing he does.

When things start to heat up, he tells Allison that the situation has become dangerous, and she should hop a plane to San Francisco. He’ll take her to the airport himself. And she says she’s not doing that anymore; she needs to know what it’s like to live with his vocation. They’re getting serious; he wants her to marry him. Let’s find out right now what this whole thing is like.

Turns out, that’s a terrible idea.

Bragg is such a strong protagonist, and the way Lynch bounces his street-smart persona off the smug, wealthy folk that live in Carmel, Bel Sur, and other hoity-toity beauty spots is masterful. The climax made me want to stand up and cheer. What a total bad ass! Way to go.

The best news of all is that this little hummer was released digitally in February, so you can have it right now.

Don’t leave home without it!

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