Jake Wolfe is a former photojournalist, ex-Marine, ex-CIA asset, lawyer, Mafia "Made Man" and modern-day privateer. He recently saved the life of the new First Lady (before the election), and is on a first-name basis with her (and her husband). Men (who don't want to kill him) admire him, women (who don't want to kill him) swoon over him. But for Wolfe, none of that matters, as much as spending time with Cody, who is another Marine vet. Cody shares in most of Wolfe's accomplishments—and gets the same reaction from men and women. The significant difference between the two is that Wolfe comes from Irish and Italian roots, and Cody is a yellow Labrador and Golden Retriever mix.
Together these two make a seemingly unstoppable force for truth, justice, and the American way. Apart they are capable but diminished, distracted, and less emotionally whole. Wolfe considers Cody a partner and makes it clear to any and all that they're a package deal.
While on assignment for the Secret Service, the pair assassinates a man who provides boats for a Mexican Drug Cartel to smuggle drugs into the U.S. Around the same time a dear friend and fellow Vet crosses the same cartel, putting both men (and Jake's girlfriend) in the cross-hairs pg of the leader of that cartel.
The cartel cuts a deadly and destructive swath from Mexico to L.A. attempting to eliminate these two, pushing the pair until they retaliate.
Most of the book is told from Wolfe's point-of-view, with dips into the POV of his girlfriend or Cartel members. There are a couple of noteworthy sections told from Cody's perspective—he's closer to Crais' Maggie than Quinn's Chet in these, but he's more thoughtful (and more human thinking) than Maggie. I wish we had a few more segments from Cody's POV.
There are two paragraphs in which a ghost appears and saves the day. These two paragraphs have had me thinking far too much about them in contrast to the rest of the novel. They're proverbial sore thumbs sticking out from the rest—but they also worked better than you'd think.
Recently, listening to interviews with Lee Goldberg, I was reminded of a genre that's not really out anymore (and I'd totally forgotten about)—"Men of Action" or "Men's Adventure." These used to be at grocery stores, convenience stores and the like offering easy-to-read adventures featuring manly men doing manly (frequently super-patriotic) deeds, and deadly (and incredibly attractive) women. Years ago, Goldberg wrote a few of this type under the pen name Ian Ludlow—and now Goldberg's protagonist of the same name writes that kind of book. See also: Mack Bolan, the Executioner; Remo Williams; and the like. Thanks to that reminder, I was able to see San Diego Dead for the return to that kind of story-telling and enjoy it for what it is. If not for that reminder, I'd have been annoyed, bothered, underwhelmed by the book. But realizing the inherent goals of this kind of writing, I was able to ignore that annoyance and channel it into reuniting such entertaining tropes/themes for contemporary audiences. It's silly, cheesy fun—which is all it tries to be.
Would much of this work better if you'd read the previous novels? Probably. Does it work fine as a stand-alone? Yes. I'm not going to say that this is for everyone—it's not (but what is?). If you (or someone you know) need a break from intense, serious, deliberate thrillers and could use solid action that places the emphasis on entertainment factor over all other considerations, give yourself a treat and check out Mark Nolan's Jake Wolfe.
My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.