“The Ruthless” is fourth in the series of prequel books featuring a “young” Bruno Johnson, Los Angeles County Deputy Sherriff. The book does not have a soft opening, and readers are immediately plunged into the midst of a mess — a black guy dressed as a trucker, a stolen Monte Carlo, a tweaker on meth, and a street PI searching for a child in foster care.
The story unfolds in Johnson’s first-person narrative. The tone is friendly and conversational, almost as if talking to a friend. There are significant references to actions from the previous books, so new readers must fill in the background through Johnson’s chronicling of his continuing guilt about past events. He skates along the fine edge between being “the law” and becoming a “law breaker.” He is driven by vengeance, guilt, and justice, but at least he has a dog.
Putnam creates separate, coexisting storylines as Johnson searches for his grandson somewhere in foster care and mitigates the concerns his dad has about Johnson’s life choices. These are weighed against Johnson’s work as an undercover detective, and his response to the vicious deaths of two friends. He is also deeply involved in an elaborate weapon’s sting involving a sham company set up in a local storefront. His life is a complex balancing act of opposing forces, and readers sense the rapid disintegration of that equilibrium. He is haunted by thoughts of what might have been.
“The Ruthless” is emotional, intense, raw, and realistic. The relationships are complicated; the characters are multifaceted, and the pace is frantic; people die. I was given a review copy of “The Heartless” by David Putnam and Oceanview Publishing. An interesting part is the “Author’s note” with real life examples; be sure to read it