By: Randy Rawls
Publisher: L&L Dreamspell
Published On: July 2011
Reviewed by: Cory Bickel
Reviewed On: December 7, 2011
What do you do when the legal system fails to bring murderers to justice? Take matters into your own hands, of course. Tom Jeffries is haunted by memories of his sisterís brutal death which shattered his faith in the legal system when her murderers were set free because of a technicality. So when the daughter of his best friend is found dead in the trunk of a car, Tom knows better than to wait for the police to catch and prosecute the perpetrators. Using the skills he learned as an assassin for the Army, Tom embarks on a vendetta against the Thorns on Roses gang that killed Mary Lou Smithson.
Tomís mission is complicated by the police, who are suspicious of him because his business card was found with the body. As detectives Richards and Summers dig deeper into Tomís past, they discover some interesting facts about his career as a cop in Dallas, the city where his sister was killed. His coincidental killing of three of the men implicated in the murder during a convenience store robbery and the later disappearance of the other two give them an idea of Tomís plans for Mary Louís killers.
Added to those keeping an eye on Tom is Abby Archer, a lawyer for the firm where Tom works as a PI. The senior partners ask Abby to watch Tom to ensure he will not do anything to mar the firmís reputation. She quickly discovers that keeping Tom under surveillance is not easy, and finds him rude and frustrating at first. She persists in her efforts, however, and sees a different side of Tom as she gets to know him better.
Tom uses clues provided by Mary Louís father to track down Johnny Grayson, the Thorns on Roses member who introduced Mary Lou to the gang and led her to her horrible death. He obtains the names of the other members by torturing Grayson and feeds the boyís body to alligators in the Florida Everglades. As he pursues the other gang members his efforts are hindered by the police, who find the disappearance of Grayson suspicious and who discover clues of their own that lead them closer to the other gangsters. Also, as feelings grow between Abby and Tom, and Abby begins to suspect the nature of Tomís mission, he is put in the position of choosing between his vendetta and love. When he discovers that the police are closing in on the remaining gang members, he is forced to abandon his careful plans and to rush into a final, deadly confrontation with the Thorns on Roses that could expose him as a vigilante and take from him all that he cares about.
Thorns on Roses is a fast-paced, exciting novel that examines the shortcomings of the legal system and the morality of vigilante justice. While these themes are not developed with great depth, they make for interesting reading, and Rawls keeps the reader on Jeffriesí side despite the lack of solid rationale for his behavior. Tom Jeffries is the quintessential tough guy with a heart, reminiscent of a Nelson DeMille hero, loveable despite (or perhaps because of) his often obnoxious personality. Abby is also a great female lead: tough, sweet, and smart. Rawlís writing is as unfrilly as his hero, and though the plot sometimes seems oversimplified, it is also refreshingly straightforward. Anyone looking for a fun, masculine thriller should enjoy this book.
Quill says: Thorns on Roses depicts a world full of machismo and danger, where justice is dealt swiftly with no regard for the law.