The Recruit

Mysterious Book Report No. 494

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Recruit, (Random House, $28.00, 416pages, ISBN 978-0-399-59212-6), by Alan Drew, takes place in 1987, during the urbanization of southern California amidst the influx of Vietnamese, Central and South Americans as well as other groups from India, Asia, Africa and the Middle East who were all fleeing war, pestilence, persecution and corruption in their native countries.  It was an era when, as Bob Dylan so presciently wrote:  “. . . The times they are a-changin’. . .

The novel begins in a place called Rancho Santa Elena—a new planned community and housing development south of Los Angeles—where a former LAPD detective named Ben Wade, who’s now working for the nascent community police department, is responding to a call about a missing dog. At the same time his significant other, Natasha, a county medical examiner, is looking into the drowning of a local real estate investor in his swimming pool.  The two events seem ordinary, but when Wade arrives on scene he finds a mother in anguish, holding a toddler in her arms.  As it turns out, the little boy has somehow ingested rat poison and both crime scenes, although miles apart, are somehow related.  The family dog is found in the alley behind a Vietnamese grocery store run by a man named Bao, with its throat cut.  It’s a hate crime, and an attempt to intimidate the immigrant family.  As Wade begins investigating the drowning that Natasha has labeled as suspicious, the pair come to the realization that the developer was targeted because he was leasing properties to immigrants from Vietnam.  It puts them on the trail of a young and growing white supremacist movement based on right wing Christianity.

Told from various points-of-view, the conflicts between groups grows more violent with each chapter in this well-plotted and disturbing read that has so many, many parallels with today’s events.  Like it or not, this novel will make you take a long hard look at . . . and think about . . . your values.  It’s a twisty and worthy read all the way to the exciting finish!

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