By T. Jefferson Parker
Lindsay Rakes is a former drone operator for the U.S. Air Force. In the end, her work of dropping missiles on enemy targets a world away becomes too much for her own conscience. The post guilt eventually ruins her marriage, losing both her husband and son through to the abuse of alcohol. Ultimately it is San Diego Private Investigator, Roland Ford, who comes to Rakes’ rescue, seeing the psychological scars she carries. He can identify as a Marine veteran who had served in Fallujah. He eventually gets Rakes in AA and on a path of sobriety.
As the book opens, Ford is still grieving for the loss of his wife in a single engine plane crash a year earlier. When Rakes shows up at his doorstep with a note threatening her life via beheading, he puts that melancholy aside. The note is written in a stylized Arabic calligraphy and the author signs himself Caliphornia openly identifying himself as a Muslim and alluding to her service activities. As it turns out, the other two men in her unit, also drone operators, had received the same thread on similar stationary. Ford takes Rakes note to FBI Agent Joan Taucher, a dedicated warrior obsessed with protecting her community from suffering terrorist attacks of any kind. She sees the threat as real and together, they begin their hunt for the elusive villain.
When one of the other two targeted veterans is murdered and beheaded, both Ford and Taucher find themselves in a race with a madman bent on a very singular vengeance. He has not chosen his targets at random, but because of their involvement with one specific mission. Now it’s up to the world weary P.I. to find that connection before the killer strikes again on an ever larger scale.
“Swift Vengeance,” like all good thrillers, works because of Parker’s ability to create believable characters, both good and bad. His insights into the human soul with its flaws and strengths is what propels the story. It allows us to know these people as if they were our own friends and neighbors. When the climax arrives, we’ve become invested and it carries us to a powerful finale cruel in its truth and inevitability. The last page of this amazing book is one this reviewer will never forget.