Nikki's Reviews > Silent Joe

Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker
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Apr 30, 11

bookshelves: edgar-best-novel-winners, fiction, mysteries, books-set-in-california
Read in April, 2011

I had somehow missed hearing of T. Jefferson Parker until I saw that he had won the Edgar for Best Novel not once, but twice. The first, in 2002, was for Silent Joe. It's a standalone novel of Orange County, California, and one thing that came immediately to mind as I read it was "No wonder they went bankrupt!" The Orange County of Parker's book (and evidently this is his preferred setting) is rife with political corruption, greedy developers, racial tension, gang violence, and people with secrets.

In a way, this is a coming-of-age novel -- a genre I've grown to dislike immensely. But in Parker's hands, with the added attraction of a mystery to solve, it's more than just bearable. Silent Joe Trona, the narrator and protagonist, is a young man who grew up burdened with a horribly disfigured face, the result of his father throwing acid at him when he was a baby. After spending the first five years of his life in a very nice orphanage, Joe is adopted by Will and Mary Ann Trona and learns what a happy childhood can be. Will was originally a sheriff's deputy (with a wealthy wife) and later becomes a county supervisor. Joe has followed in his footsteps and works in the county jail by day, but nearly every night he acts as a combination chauffeur and bodyguard for his father. There is a lot of moral ambiguity involved here as Joe sees money changing hands, evidence that Will is cheating on Mary Ann, and other odd things -- and yet he still hero-worships his father. One night they are trying to retrieve a kidnapped child and things go horribly wrong; Joe spends the rest of the book trying to solve his father's murder and makes some surprising discoveries along the way.

Plot, setting, and character - this book has it all and was richly deserving of its award. It won't be long in my project to read all the Edgar Best Novel winners till I'll be reading Parker's second winner, California Girl and I am looking forward to it. But I must say that, based on this novel, Parker's Orange County is a place I will visit every now and then, but I wouldn't want to read several of his books in quick succession.
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