Rick Riordan is one of my favorite living authors. He has a distinct voice and it suits his protagonist Tres
for what has become a stellar crime fiction series. If you enjoy following the exploits of an iconic hero throughout an ongoing number of novels – whether it’s Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, or, I don’t know, James Bond – this series is for you. Riordan delivers engaging plots, snappy dialogue, three-dimensional characters, and the rich tapestry of Navarre , with a grit and attitude as genuine as real snakeskin chaps. Just wished mine didn’t chafe so much. Would probably help if I wore pants. San Antonio, Texas
I’ve met Riordan twice at annual Book Festivals in
. He spoke each time to a large room filled to capacity. (He used to teach high school, and he's a great, charismatic speaker. Won a Master Teacher Award in 2002.) Many had to stand in the back. The following year they gave him a much larger space. It too was overfilled. Afterwards, he autographed books. The friend I stood in line with had taken an oath of silence and as the heat and the halitosis swelled, I grew progressively impatient. When we finally reached Riordan’s table, he asked how I wanted him to sign my copy of his latest Percy Jackson & the Olympians novel, The Titan's Curse. I said, “If you could just put: ‘We’ll always have that wonderful weekend in Austin Maui.’” His chuckle seemed genuine.
Big Red Tequila is told first person by Tres
, a Ph.D. in medieval studies and English, T’ai chi master, tequila fan, and unlicensed P.I. As if the case or the scenes aren’t intense enough, Tres has a smart mouth which frequently gets him into trouble and adds an extra layer of tension as well as humor. The writing is superb and worth your time. Navarre
As usual, the writing is excellent – intense scenes, motivated, broken characters, and a compelling plot. And of course some excellent lines:
Hunter’s face could have been crafted from stealth bomber material – smooth hard contours, bald scalp so dark it seemed to drink the light. His eyes trapped you, studied you, released you only when they were good and ready.
Hunter looked out toward the hills. He sighted a deer over the tips of his combat boots, as if calculating the best shot.
…loading his gun at the kitchen table, pushing nine-millimeter cartridges into the magazine with the care of a pharmacist counting pills.
Riordan understands the importance of visualization so that even his characters’ abstract thoughts are paired with images …
But it was hard. It was like forcing his hand to touch a hot stove plate.
…but something about her drew it out of him, like snake venom.
He was going to shake to pieces. He was a test plane at the edge of the sound barrier, the bolts of his wings starting to rattle loose.
Only one thing bothered me. The primary villain, Samuel, appears in several scenes with a number of characters, and these scenes are told from either their point of view or Samuel’s. Yet near the end of the novel we learn that Samuel isn’t Samuel, that Samuel has been dead for years. The character Riordan had been referring to as Samuel all this time is actually Kindra, Samuel’s sister, a murderous schizophrenic bent on vengeance for what others in the story put her brother through before Samuel was eventually murdered.
If it weren’t for this one gimmick, I’d give the novel five out of five stars. But since at no time during these scenes is Kindra wearing a disguise, standing behind a wall, or augmenting her voice, there’s no reason for Riordan to deceive the reader in this way. The characters who interact with Kindra know they’re dealing with Kindra. Riordan simply omits this fact, conceals it from the reader. I found this plot device disingenuous. It went beyond misdirection. To keep up this pretense only to save it for the big reveal at the end struck me as unnecessary mischief.
I hesitated to mention this after reading comments on Amazon and conferring with a friend who read the novel a decade ago since no one else seems to have had a problem with it. One of the pitfalls to scrutinizing a writer’s artistic decisions is that sometimes our impressions are less than fawning. I won't stop reading Riordan. His writing is too good. And I can certainly forgive this one transgression in lieu of his many other satisfying novels. Besides, if all else fails, we’ll always have that wonderful weekend in