"Hot Start" (Permanent Press), by David Freed
For a fictional action hero, Cordell Logan, a former military assassin now scraping out a living as a flying instructor in Southern California, is a real softie.
He never stopped pining for Savannah, the love of his life, and has been inconsolable since his actions in "Voodoo Ridge" inadvertently led to her death. He spoils his cat, Kiddiot, who returns his affections by alternately clawing and ignoring him. He's striving — and largely failing — to find serenity as a Buddhist. And he dotes on Mrs. Schmulowitz, his ancient busybody of a landlady, whose health problems provide an emotional subplot for "Hot Start," the fifth novel in this fine series.
The main story line gets rolling when a strident animal rights advocate is arrested for gunning down an international big game hunter and his wife at their luxurious California estate. The accused is a distant relative of Savannah's father, who uses Logan's guilt to persuade him to look into the matter.
But soon, the case takes several surprising turns, and Logan finds himself tangling with the police, an international call-girl ring, a corrupt congressman, the White House and a vicious Czech crime boss who wants Logan taken off the board.
David Freed is unusually well equipped to tell such tales. He won a Pulitzer Prize covering the police for the Los Angeles Times, covered war in Kuwait and Iraq, worked for a government security agency, holds a security clearance from the Department of Defense, and is an experienced pilot who, like Logan, owns his own airplane.
The result is another well-written yarn told with both a streak of quirky humor and a sense of authenticity. And like many real-life action heroes — as opposed to most fictional ones — Cordell Logan is as uncomfortable with violence as he is capable of it.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."