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Reviewed by Darryl Greer for Readers' Favorite
Bill Larkin’s Bullet in the Blue Sky is set in Los Angeles in the aftermath of a massive earthquake. Covering a period of only three days, which adds to its sense of urgency, the story follows the search by an elite team - eventually made up of LAPD, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, FBI and US Army personnel - through the ravaged streets of Los Angeles and beyond in the search for one of their own: LAPD detective Gavin Shaw. Only thing is, no-one knows why. Despite battling their way through street after street of looting, serious assaults and homicides, the cops are forbidden by their deputy chief, Jenkins, to get involved in crime fighting, their search for Shaw outranking everything else in importance.
The intrigue deepens when the FBI and US Army personnel join the team with similar orders, though from different sources. While the team members are willing to avoid involvement in the violence engulfing them, someone forgot to tell the bad guys and they are subjected to one attack after another as every weapon known to man is levelled at them. When the team members share their intel, it emerges that there is history between the person they’re searching for, Shaw, and the deputy chief, Jenkins, but no one seems to know what it is. Eventually they catch up with Shaw — he is about to deliver an aftershock of his own on the origins of the earthquake.
You would expect a former member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and LAPD detective, as Bill Larkin is, to know his stuff when it comes to police procedure and dialogue. But an enormous amount of research still had to go into this gripping novel. It can be difficult for an author who has vastly researched the factual background of a story to mask the results so the reader is not confronted by page after page of dry facts and figures normally found in text books. In Bullet in the Blue Sky, Larkin does it well. The narrative and the dialogue flow smoothly, adding to the exciting pace that has the reader fanning the pages and speed reading from the get go to the very end. It certainly fits the difficult-to-put-down category.
The story is told in the first person as though the narrator is Kevin “Schmitty” Schmidt of the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department, with the occasional chapter telling us what is going on elsewhere, sometimes in an earlier time. This device works well and doesn’t detract from the heart-thumping pace of the story. It is sometimes said that some writers, especially American ones, won’t let implausibility get in the way of a good story. While Bullet in the Blue Sky is founded on a rather incredible premise, Larkin has cleverly created an air of believability about it. It’s a riveting read with intrigue, mystery, suspense and action/adventure all wrapped up in one electrifying package.