From the book jacket:
"My life was ordinary until three years ago when
I was thrown out of a downtown hotel window. My
name is Robbie Brownlaw, and I am a homicide
detective for the city of San Diego. I am
twenty-nine years old.
I now have synesthesia, a neurological condition where your senses get mixed up. Sometimes when people talk to me, I see their voices as colored shapes provoked by the emotions of the speakers, not by the words themselves. I have what amounts to a primitive lie detector. After three years, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the colors and shapes of other people's feelings, unless they don't match up with their words."
When Garrett Asplundh's body is found under a San Diego bridge, Robbie Brownlaw and his partner, McKenzie Cortez, are called on to the case. After the tragic death of his child and the dissolution of his marriage, Garrett -- regarded as an honest, straight-arrow officer -- left the SDPD to become an ethics investigator, looking into the activities of his former colleagues. At first his death, which takes place on the eve of a reconciliation with his ex, looks like suicide, but the clues Brownlaw and Cortez find just don't add up. With pressure mounting from the police and the city's politicians, Brownlaw fights to find the truth, all the while trying to hold on to his own crumbling marriage. Was Garrett's death an "execution" or a crime of passion, a personal vendetta or the final step in an elaborate cover-up? Amid rampant corruption and tightening city purse strings, whatever conclusion Brownlaw comes to, the city of San Diego -- and Brownlaw's life -- hangs in the balance.
Comment: The week in which I read The Fallen I started three thrillers, but The Fallen was the only one that I finished. I felt a bit like Goldilocks - one thriller was too macho, another was too gory - only The Fallen was just right, combining well drawn characters with a solidly told police procedural (by which I mean that there are no great leaps of coincidence that lead to the solving of the crime, just sound, time-consuming police-work, following leads up blind allies, and back down again until the right path is explored).
Like all Parker's novels, The Fallen is set in Southern California, but in San Diego, as opposed to Orange County that has been the setting for most of his books. The change of location was precipitated by Parker and his family moving to San Diego County themselves about 5 years ago, and being an author who loves to write about where he lives he has made San Diego Country the backdrop to at least two of his recent books: The Fallen and Cold Pursuit (2003).
Another characteristic of Jeff's novels are that a central character suffers some sort of loss but finds a way to move on with his or her life. When asked what he feels is the key to rising above life's challenges and disappointments, Jeff replies: "For me it was always a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. I remember doing that, literally, after the death of Catherine, my first wife. She died of a brain tumor when she was very young. After that, I just followed my feet around the house to get some work done; around town to get some groceries; to the beach or the hunting meadow or the tennis court or whatever. Friends and family get you through. Deaths like that make you stronger, I think, in the long run. Maybe they give you some perspective, some protective experience.
If you're looking for a page-turner that you can still respect in the cold light of morning, take a look at one of Jeff Parker's 13 novels - you'll find three excerpted at BookBrowse.
This review was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the January 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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