First Sentence: The door burst open and banged against the wall.
Private Investigator Leo Waterman destroyed the plans, men, and millions of dollars in materials and equipment of a white supremacist group. Badly injured, Leo and his androgynous friend and protector Gabe, have taken refuge to recover in Ocean Beach, California, trying to keep a very low profile. Finding a body on the beach, and being bitten by a homeless man, propels Leo into an investigation which takes the pair into Mexico and the world of sex trafficking, caught between two groups out to kill them.
Ford does create unique characters. From those one has met before, such as Gabe and other Seattle characters; to Chub and Lamar—one hopes never to meet them. Who else would think up a guy with an afro and a barcode tattooed on his forehead? But then there's SDPD officer, Sergeant Carolyn Saunders. She is someone of whom one would love to see more in the future.
Ford's perceptiveness—"Borders are lines in the sand. Bloody lines. Lines that people fought and died for."—is equally effective in dark and light situations—"You know how people like to pretend they're more familiar with places than they really are … That was us. …neither of us wanted to admit we didn't quite remember the way…so we'd …wandered …for half an hour before realizing our mistake and sheepishly asking a truck driver for directions." He takes one places one would like to think don't exist; places one doesn't want to see where life is as one hopes never to experience. But it is his humor which creates balance—"Take the 5 to the 8 … then over the bridge into Mission Bay." "Ooooh … don't we sound like Californians now," I joked."
The plot has a slowly-building flame with a very good intersection between the two threads of the plot. What's nice is that it's not all action. Ford also makes one stop and think along the way. Still, he does take the story from crescendo to crescendo. When things get serious, they get very serious and uncomfortably relevant to today's issues, which are important and handled extremely well.
"Heavy on the Dead" is one cracking good, fast-paced, suspenseful story. It is exciting, but it's way more than an airplane book due to its focus. One thing is for certain: one never gets bored reading Ford.
HEAVY ON THE DEAD (PI-Leo Waterman-California/Mexico-Contemp) - ExFord, G.M. – 12th in series
Thomas & Mercer – July 2019