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T. Jefferson Parker unleashes non-stop action in new thriller ‘Swift Vengeance’

Thriller writer T. Jefferson Parker, author of the new "Swift Vengeance." | Penguin Random House

A drone circles like a bird of prey, waiting for a clear shot at a terrorist. Thousands of miles away in America, its operator seems, at first glance, to be playing a video game.

Military drone operators know they are dealing in death, but there’s something oddly impersonal about killing from such a distance. For those who are hunted, it doesn’t feel that way.

T. Jefferson Parker asks readers to think about that as he unleashes non-stop action in “Swift Vengeance” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $27), the second novel in his series of thrillers featuring Ronald Ford, an Iraq war combat veteran now working as a private investigator.

The terrorist knows he is a target, so he’s been staying out of sight or surrounding himself with innocents. But on this day, he makes a mistake.

On the video screen the operator has been staring at for months, the terrorist suddenly appears alone. She gets a thumbs-up from her superior and unleashes a missile. But because of the distance between operator and drone, her video feed has a five-second delay.

In those five seconds, something could go wrong. It does, and innocent people die.

Much later, retired drone operator Lindsay Rakes approaches Ford and begs for his help. One of her former colleagues has been killed, his head severed. Lindsay, fearing the killing is retribution for the drone strike, thinks she could be next.

Ford hides her at his place near San Diego and sets out, with the FBI, to identify the killer. Before long, the killer, who calls himself “Caliphornia,” strikes again.

For the past decade or so, Parker has been using thrillers to explore the issues of our day. His previous series, an uneven but sometimes brilliant one featuring undercover cop Charlie Hood, examined the devastation wrought by Mexican crime cartels and America’s war on drugs.

Starting with “The Room of White Fire,” the new series succeeds not only in entertaining but also in challenging readers to ponder the circle of vengeance unleashed by the Iraq war and America’s seemingly endless war on terror.

<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Click here to read an excerpt.</a>
Click here to read an excerpt.