Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker



Laguna Heat Laguna HeatT. Jefferson Parker; St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1993WorldCatTom Shephard is the homicide detective for the Laguna police department. His father had been the chief of police in Laguna for years, then retired and is now a preacher. His mother died when he was a baby when a man broke in and tried to rape her. Shephard’s father had come for lunch when the intruder was there, so he stopped his rape and shot her instead. Shephard had left Laguna to work for the Los Angeles police department. After a bad situation with them, he resigned and returned to his home town.

A man is discovered dead outside his home. He had his head bashed with a rock, then his body was burned. There was a note left with the body – “Liars Burn and Little Liars Burn First”. The man’s wife had died over 30 years earlier from cancer. He was estranged from his daughter. He had owned a horse ranch and was a gambler. Recently he had sold off most of his horses, but still gambled. Shephard is able to follow tracks from the body to the open land. Following his instincts, he eventually tracks the man down to one of the low hotels in Laguna. But he is too late. Another man is also looking for the suspect. Both have been at the hotel room and disappeared.

Soon a widow is found murdered in her home. Her body had also been burned. She and the first victim had been friends in the past before either of their spouses had died. As Shephard digs deeper, he finds connections to friendships back when he was a baby. His parents had also been part of the crowd that relaxed and played together at one of the local exclusive resorts when it was still new. He believes the present murders may link back to the past. But how? and Why? Was his father involved? Or perhaps the owner of the resort? The widow’s husband died in a drowning accident – or was it?

I believe this was Parker’s first novel, published in 1985, although I’m not completely certain. It is very good and already shows Parker’s writing style. Shephard carries memories from LA that he tries to suppress. He connects with the first victim’s daughter. She carries her own baggage. Parker is able to form complex characters and keep them believable.

He twists Laguna Heat around, taking the plot up one alley, then down a different lane, then turns another direction before if twists back on itself. Shephard follows clues and intution, afriad of what he may find from the past but determined to solve the current murders.

There are also echoes of his later novel, California Girls. Wade Shephard started his church in a closed drive in theater. Although his congregation has brown and he now has a cathedral, his Sunday sermon is still broadcast on the drive in’s speakers for those who perfer to worship outside. One of the brothers in California Girls also preaches in a drive in theater, with another brother being a cop, and a murder with attachments to their past.

Laguna Heat is a good read. The mystery keeps the reader’s attention. The characters are believable. T. Jefferson Parker’s works are well knit mysteries, and Laguna Heat started his success.

Notice:  Non-graphic violence, Strong sexual content

More books by T. Jefferson Parker

Link to BooksLink to BetterWorld Books

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