I’ve really grown fond of this ‘Hawker’ series by Randy Wayne White (writing as Carl Ramm). While the series began on flat-feet, each installment thereafter has further developed the Hawker character. White has incorporated friends and business associates into the overall collective, defining roles but providing the series room to breathe and grow. Book five, “Houston Attack”, continues that formula and it culminates into one of the best episodes of the 11-book run.
This novel begins mid-story with Hawker approaching the Texas border from Mexico. He’s disguised as a Mexican worker utilizing paid bad guys to smuggle him into the US. There’s an exchange with a young woman, Cristoba de Abella, before Hawker learns the whole operation is human trafficking. Gunfire ensues, and the opening chapter closes out with the reader confused on exactly what is transpiring. Luckily, Chapter Two retroactively brings us back to the event’s origin. A brief recap is made of the prior four books (I like this) and we learn that Hawker has taken 3-4 months off to rest and tend to prior wounds. His ex-wife Andrea comes to visit bearing bad news – her brother has been killed on the Texas-Mexico border.
The plot involves Hawker consulting with the Texas district attorney regarding the man’s murder. He was working undercover and had a rap sheet on the human trafficking players. The D.A. asks for Hawker to finish the job by going undercover (brilliantly as a one-armed migrant worker) and exposing the ring. It’s all centralized at a large Texas ranch, which Hawker infiltrates from within. Soon, he is teaming with a Texas Ranger to not only assist the feds, but to destroy the entire operation at it’s roots. White has Hawker utilizing the same weapons – survival knife, CAR-15, plastic explosive – in each book, and while it’s repetitive, I like the consistency. Hawker successfully uses them for each novel in new and clever ways.
Overall, this one has a little bit of everything - humor, action, intrigue and a little romance. It’s a fantastic stand-alone story but propels the series forward with even more alliances as well as questions. Perhaps Hawker pairs with the Texas Rangers again in future installments? Will he re-marry his ex-wife Andrea? Will Hawker’s employer Hayes return in the next book? White’s little nuances make the reader ask probing questions. It also forces us back again and again. I’m ready to see where “Vegas Vengeance” takes us next.