Southern California’s ethos has frequently been captured by detective writers, notably Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, and Robert Crais. T. Jefferson Parker is a member of that fraternity. Unlike his peers, the locales for Parker’s novels have generally been to the south of Los Angeles, in Orange and San Diego counties.
In Cold Pursuit, recently divorced Tom McMichael, San Diego homicide detective, is assigned to investigate the murder of Pete Braga, eighty-four-year-old one-time commercial fisherman and more recently a successful politician and wealthy business man. In the 1950’s, Braga killed McMichael’s grandfather in self-defense, and, as an adolescent, McMichael’s father was accused of permanently injuring Braga’s son but was never convicted. The McMichael and Braga families are long-estranged because of the incidents, but as a young man, twenty years or so earlier, Tom McMichael had a torrid romance with Braga’s granddaughter, Patricia, though she chose to marry someone else.
The initial suspect is Braga’s nurse/companion, Sally Rainwater, a college graduate student and to whom Braga had given numerous valuable gifts and the person who found Braga’s bludgeoned body. McMichael’s investigation is further complicated by the arrest of his former partner who was a participant in illegally smuggling body parts from Mexico, in vehicles obtained through Braga’s automobile dealership. During the course of the murder investigation, McMichael falls in love with Rainwater and also renews his contacts with Patricia.
Cold Pursuit includes a bloody shoot-out at the United States-Mexican border crossing and a horrific catapulting of an automobile off San Diego’s Coronado Bridge, two hundred feet into the sea. All in all, a disturbing journey into a wealthy family’s darker venues.