“The Room of White Fire” is T. Jefferson Parker’s newest thriller, and a thriller it is. Parker creates a story with complex social significance and a tangled web of community and military despair and anguish.
Private investigator Roland Ford, ex-cop and ex-Marine, is haunted by both his wife’s tragic death, and his experiences in Fallujah. Ford is hired to find Clay Hickman, ex Air Force, who had recently escaped from his ultra-expensive, super-secure residential care facility, Arcadia. Although this seems at first to be a straightforward job, it becomes ever more complicated when Ford unearths secret after secret about Hickman, as well as about Arcadia and the people who run it.
Ford tells the story in his own voice, and we experience all his fears, his ghosts, and his questions. We see his flaws; we see his fabric of life hanging in the balance, and we are on his side. We observe the other characters through his filter. Ford offers us factual descriptions, but emotional opinions and observations. While he thinks that everyone has a morsel of goodness somewhere, we are not so sure. Ford uses all his senses to pull us into the story.
“Maybe it was the slamming of the Dutch door.Or the wind in the grapes, or the way the tire swing turned on its rope.”
“Shade goes well with a warm day, a cold beer, and a stack of almost-overdue bills…I paused to look out at the pond and the rolling hills beyond.”
“The Room of White Fire” is a difficult story to read because of the challenging social content. Parker creates a haunting scenario that readers might have read about in newspapers or heard about on TV but may not want to admit might be true. As we read about Ford’s struggle, about Hickman’s struggle, we must also wonder who among us is struggling with the same problems. This is a book we must all read.
The good news is that while this story has a definite end, Roland Ford’s story does not. I think Ford will find his way into another Parker story in the future, and I for one cannot wait.