Be prepared to immerse yourself in the chaotic crime world of Bruno Johnson as he reluctantly returns for yet another high-octane thriller brimming with mayhem and a high body count. Enter the violent and gritty world of Bruno where his name is spoken with reverence when uttered by his adversaries – known on the streets for his unwavering tenacity and penchant for meting out explosive violence when necessary.
His law enforcement career began almost thirty years ago in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and led to two decades of service on the Violent Crimes Team, hunting down murderers. He even had to do a brief stint in prison for killing his daughter’s murderer. Bruno does have outstanding warrants for kidnapping, which seem to go unchallenged and uncollected. Bruno and his pregnant wife, Maria, have taken sanctuary in Costa Rica along with his cadre of children that they have rescued and “kidnapped” from their abusive and hostile homes. Their efforts have achieved mythic proportions – referred to as the underground railroad for abused children.
On the eve of Maria’s unexpected and complicated delivery he is tasked with two requests that he feels indebted to fulfill. His best friends, Doctor Vargas and his wife, Alisa are visiting when Maria precipitously goes into violent labor. Dr Vargas, under tense and dramatic circumstances, saves the lives of both Maria and the baby boy. They reluctantly ask Bruno to retrieve and rescue their only child, Layla. She is a college student at USC in Los Angeles, and is terrified of a threatening stalker.
Knowing Bruno’s background, they absolutely feel he is the best one to rescue and accompany their daughter safely back home. How can he refuse what should be a 12-hour journey or possibly 24 hours at the most? Earlier in that same day, Bruno’s father entreated him to “forgive your mother” and escort her back to Los Angeles. He has given her one hundred thousand dollars (“his life savings”) and wants to assure her safe passage to a car rental agency. The details and necessity of this request is clouded in murky reasoning. (The details will obliquely unfold in a startling sequence of events.)Dr Vargas, with his many influential contacts has procured Bruno with a passport and Private Investigator’s license in a different name.
Once Bruno arrives in Los Angeles with “his mother” and Alisa in tow, all hell breaks loose.
Both Bea and Alisa soon mysteriously abscond from his presence in the airport. He soon learns that in fact Layla was kidnapped and Alisa is on her way to pay the ransom. Bruno immediately enlists the aid of his long-time friend and motorcycle gang washout, Karl Drago. Karl is a giant of a man, standing six-foot-three and weighing three hundred and fifty pounds with the prowess and skill to complement his size—no one willingly messes with Karl. Part of the package is Drago’s faithful dog, Waldo. Who would argue with a one hundred and thirty pound Rottweiler, who quickly responds to Karl’s multifaceted commands, meted out in guttural German? Bruno and Drago quickly realize they are up against Johnny “Ef” Filmore and his criminal enterprise that exploits both women and children. Gambling and prostitution is the least of their vices, and soon it’s evident that selling minors for sex and even babies is part of the equation. Bruno will not stop or be deterred in his goal of righteous justice.
David Putnam proves to be a masterful storyteller as he spins a gritty high octane street tale that is relentless and escalates in an exhilarating denouement. His skill is highlighted by the implementation of his quirky nuanced side characters like Drago and his dog Waldo, and the prison-wise mother, Bea, with a history of expert cons, who feigns the need for a wheelchair.
This gem is obviously penned by one who has “lived the life” on the street. The multilayered plot and characters will be ingrained in your memory long after you’ve turned the last page. Although this is the tenth foray into the world of Bruno Johnson, it can be enjoyed and devoured as a stand alone, as Putnam seamlessly supplies the necessary back story. The exploits of Bruno Johnson rival those of Harry Bosch and Jack Reacher, and certainly will quench the thirst of action-thriller enthusiasts.
Thanks to NetGallery and Oceanview Publishing for supplying an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.