Review: Bombings and a disappearance fuel Parker’s new novel

“Then She Vanished,” by T. Jefferson Parker (Putnam)

With each new book in T. Jefferson Parker’s series featuring San Diego private detective Roland Ford, the less the yarns resemble private eye novels and the more they bring to mind apocalyptic James Bond thrillers.

Fans of detective stories are likely to prefer the first Roland novel, “The Room of White Fire” (2017), over the fourth and latest installment, but apocalyptic conspiracies involving powerful forces fit the current national mood, and Parker certainly has the writing chops to pull this sort of thing off.

“Then She Vanished” opens with Dalton Strait, a California politician in the middle of a bruising reelection campaign, hiring Ford to track down his missing wife. At first, it appears that the bipolar woman has simply run off again, but when her car is found abandoned, the word “help” scrawled in lipstick on the back seat, the search takes a dark and urgent turn.

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Ford’s investigation brings him face to face with members of Strait’s dysfunctional family, including the menacing family patriarch and a sister whose legal marijuana-growing business has brought her into violent conflict with a Mexican drug cartel.

Meanwhile, a terrorist group with an anti-technology manifesto is blowing up targets around the state and urging others with anarchistic inclinations to join them. As the bombings become more frequent and the death toll mounts, Ford comes to suspect that the missing woman and the bombings are somehow related.

Although the story drags a bit at times, the plot is suspenseful and Parker’s writing is first rate, as is to be expected from a writer with 25 mostly excellent crime novels and a remarkable three Edgar Awards in his resume.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”

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