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Retro Reading: L.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker

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The best thing that I can say about this book was it was the first time in my reading history which had large print. It was a definite plus!

As this story begins, Allison Murrieta, aka Suzanne Jones, is preparing to rob a man after placing a car for sale in the local Auto Trader. As an experienced thief, she finds jobs like this to be much more profitable than knocking over a fast food restaurant.

But her crime spree this August night doesn't stop here and her life will be forever changed as the evening wears on.

Getting a tip from a friend of a friend of a friend, Allison/Suzanne has heard of a diamond broker having a meeting at an auto repair shop with a gang. He wants to settle his debt using diamonds and when she gets to the shop, she discovers bodies all over the place and takes the diamonds.

Later she's pulled over by Charlie Hood and she tells him that she's heading home (a close to two hour drive) after visiting with relatives. After cooperating with him, she heads home, but notices an older car with tinted windows drive by a couple of times.

The next morning, Hood travels the two hours and interviews her again.

That night, after a trip to the movies, she comes home to find her two neighbors executed in her barn and her middle son, Jordan had been talking to the suspect, Lupercio Maygar, while he was fishing earlier.

Hood tracks the family to the beach and tells Suzanne about Lupercio and how dangerous he is. He doesn't think that they should stay in one place, so she sends her boyfriend and kids to another location and she goes off by herself.

Of course, since she's alone, she can conduct "her business" which includes trying to sell the diamonds and hold up an occasional fast food place. As Allison, she has a growing reputation and becomes a modern day folk hero while eluding the police (yet dropping off a business card at the places that she's robbed) and also making donations to charities with the cash that she has on hand.

While Suzanne is an award winning history teacher, no one knows that behind the mask she dons and the wigs, is the criminal Allison Murrietta. She hasn't hurt anyone during any of her crime sprees and always manages to "perform" for the video cameras as she's robbing an establishment. The robberies always hit the local news.

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Hood begins to suspect that Suzanne is Allison, but of course she denies it and the two, who hailed from Bakersfield in their previous lives, begin an affair, which Hood denies to his superiors.

He returns to Bakersfield and meets with her mother and she mentions that she knows Suzanne is also Allison, which he agrees. After letting her know that she and her grandmother are in grave danger, he tells them to leave for a few days and that night, Lupercio stakes out the house.

While Charlie is out in the desert, Lupercio kills the two cops in the house. He is thankful though that he made it to Suzanne's mother in time to warn her.

Hood also begins to suspect that there's some criminal activity within the police department and is asked by his superiors if he's seeing Suzanne romantically, but he denies it and the two meet up again.

With his increasing suspicion of her, he has to figure out a way to keep her safe and no matter how much he asks, she denies being Allison, even after she's brought in for questioning by his superiors.

Once she's released, she starts to get all types of offers from the media, since everyone finds it hard to believe that an innocent schoolteacher was the witness to the auto shop massacre. It's an instant game of fame and the boundaries that the media will go to in order to get the story.

While the story itself is so-so, I would have liked it much better had there been more of Suzanne's story. I don't really think it's ever mentioned how she had gotten into her life of crime (in all honesty, the book is close to 550 pages) and it spends too much time talking about cars and horsepower, etc. It wasn't appealing to me.

Allison is supposed to be the great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Joaquin Murrieta, a real life outlaw and while this story is fictional, it would have been more interesting had she gone deeper into her heritage and I think it would have maybe gave the character more depth. There were a lot of unanswered questions.

Since this is the first in the Charlie Hood series, I didn't feel a connection with him and I really didn't know too much about him even after finishing the novel. I'm hoping that he grows during the next five installments, because for now, he isn't that appealing.

When the story specifically focuses on Suzanne/Allison, it's really good, but as I said, it's lacking some elements and at times can be rather boring.

But if you get the large print version, it'll fly by!

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