Friday, August 28, 2015

THE REPLACEMENTS by DAVID PUTNAM

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Bruno Johnson, ex-detective with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and an ex-convict, is hiding out from the FBI in Costa Rica, tending bar to support eight children he illegally rescued from abusive homes. Partway through a normal day, Barbara Wicks, a former colleague and the chief of police for Montclair, California, walks into his bar. Bruno is shocked to the core.  Is she there to arrest him and take him back to California? Turns out she's there to request Bruno's help.  Two children have been kidnapped.

The kidnapper, Jonas Mabry, was himself a victim whom Bruno rescued as a small child.  Now Mabry demands a fool's retribution, a million dollar ransom, and Bruno to put his life on the line to get the money. In this twisted turn of fate, Bruno returns as a wanted criminal to California.  Despite the risk of arrest and even his life, he cannot turn his back on these kids.  And neither can Bruno's girlfriend, Marie.  

 
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Bruno Johnson, ex-detective with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and an ex-convict, is hiding out from the FBI in Costa Rica, tending bar to support eight children he illegally rescued from abusive homes. Partway through a normal day, Barbara Wicks, a former colleague and the chief of police for Montclair, California, walks into his bar. Bruno is shocked to the core.  Is she there to arrest him and take him back to California? Turns out she's there to request Bruno's help.  Two children have been kidnapped. 

The kidnapper, Jonas Mabry, was himself a victim whom Bruno rescued as a small child.  Now Mabry demands a fool's retribution, a million dollar ransom, and Bruno to put his life on the line to get the money. In this twisted turn of fate, Bruno returns as a wanted criminal to California.  Despite the risk of arrest and even his life, he cannot turn his back on these kids.  And neither can Bruno's girlfriend, Marie. 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
During his law enforcement career, David Putnam worked primarily in California on special teams for Patrol, Investigations, SWAT, Narcotics, Violent Crimes, Criminal Intelligence, Internal Affairs, Detective Bureau and as child protective services coordinator.

He rounded out his law enforcement career with a few years in the Hawaiian Islands as a Special Agent-part of a real-life "Hawaii-50″ team.

He's now retired from law enforcement and spends his time growing organic California avocados and writing, with his wife Mary and their two dogs.


 

EXCERPT

The day the house bled started out sunny and warm. I was a rookie street cop in South Central Los Angeles. I worked uniform patrol for the sheriff ’s department, a job that could impact the community in so many positive ways. I ferreted out the predators, either put them in jail or prodded them until they moved on to another neighborhood. I liked working with the kids the most. I tried to find them before they were corrupted by the cancerous part of the street. There were the lost causes, but most kids wanted to better themselves and were hungry for guidance.

The absolute worst part of the job was bearing witness to the lowest ebb of humanity. I never could understand the motivation, the reasoning, the excuses for harming children. Because there weren’t any. Not in this world or any other.

The day of the horrible bleeding house incident started out great. A Blood by the name of Little Ghost had been dodging me for weeks. Anytime I was able to feed my handcuffs with a predator gave me a warm feeling. He’d set up shop slinging rock cocaine two blocks from a middle school, and I hadn’t been able to nab him. That day I put on a gray raincoat over my uniform and snuck up on him through a back alley, caught him right in the middle of a hand-to-hand deal.

So I was having a good day until the call to “keep the peace” came my way. I pulled up to a house in East Compton. White Street, west of Atlantic. A house like any other on the street, light blue with dark blue trim, maybe maintained a little better with a mowed lawn and a trimmed hedge. A man in slacks and a long- sleeve blue dress shirt stood out front wringing his hands, his expression one of genuine concern. I pulled up and parked half in the driveway, half in the street, and got out. “How can I help you, sir?”

“My name’s Micah Mabry, and I’m worried about my kids, Jonas, Betsy, and Sally. Jonas is five, Betsy’s seven, and Sally, she’s…she’s eight. Yes…yes, she’s eight last October. I knocked and knocked and they won’t answer the door. Please, you have to help me. Please.”

“Okay, Mr. Mabry, slow down and start from the beginning.” “Right, right, sure. My wife Bella and I are separated. We’re

getting a divorce.” “I’m sorry.”

He waved off the apology. “It’s okay, it’s a long story. But two nights ago she was supposed to meet me at McDonald’s. I was supposed to get my three kids for the weekend.”

Dispatch hadn’t told me this was a hostage exchange—the term used for child custody conflicts. The adults never acted like  adults,  and  the  losers  were  always  the  children  caught between  parents  they  loved,  with  their  petty  conflicts  and wounded egos. The parents’ bitter emotions were the worst to deal with in these incidents. People became irrational. Child custody calls tore at my gut. I couldn’t stand to see children cry and I always had to suppress the urge to do something about it.

Mabry continued, “She never showed up. I’ve tried to call her for the last two days, so I came over here. Listen, I’m going to tell you up front, she has a restraining order against me, and I’m not supposed to be here.”

No wonder she wasn’t answering the door. I  couldn’t allow him to stay if he was telling the truth about the TRO, the temporary restraining order. I said, “Do you have the court custody papers signed by the judge?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure.” He pulled them from his back pocket. I checked; they were complete and in order. He was right, it was his turn to have the kids. “Okay,” I said, “Here’s the deal. All I’m allowed to do in this case is take a report and submit it to the DA as a violation of a court order, a PC 166.4—”

“You can’t make her give me my kids?”

“No, you have to have your attorney pull her back into family court.”

“Come on, that can take forever.”

“I know, I’m sorry.” I sat in the front seat and filled in the report form while he stood in the open door of the patrol unit staring down. I knew he was staring at me, and I couldn’t look up at him. He pulled out his wallet. “Deputy Johnson, you have kids?”

I was raising my daughter on my own and found it damn difficult to juggle her upbringing with an ever-shifting patrol schedule. I knew how hard it was to raise children and disliked him a little for throwing the kid card.

He held out his wallet, the plastic sleeves cloudy from overuse. The kids were cute. What child wasn’t? I wrote the case number down on a business card, got out, and stood in the open door. I handed it to him. Micah Mabry stared at the card as if it were a disappearing lifeline.

I said, “Ah, hell. You knocked?”

“Yes, yes. I’ve been here for an hour. I’ve knocked again and again the entire time. I know they’re in there. Please, Deputy?”

Son of a bitch. I reached in and picked up the mic. “Two- fifty-five-Adam, start another unit to back. I’m going to force entry.”

I’d hardly unkeyed the mic when Sergeant Foreman came up on the air. “Negative, Two-fifty-five-Adam. Stand by, I’m responding.”

Once Foreman arrived, no way would he do  anything other than what the book said.

I tossed the mic onto the seat. The window configuration of the house, outlined in dark blue paint against the light blue of the house, made the windows look like the eyes of a monster.  I walked with purpose to the front door. I’d made up my mind and didn’t want to think about the consequences. I knocked loud enough for the neighbors to hear. No answer. “What’s your wife’s name?”

“Bella. Her name’s Bella, but this won’t do any good. I’ve tried.”

I believed him and was beginning to have a bad feeling about the entire situation. I yelled, “Bella, this is Deputy Johnson with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I need you to open the door. Come to the door and talk to me. Now.” Something was wrong about the whole setup. Anxiety rose up in me, and I could no longer follow proper protocol.

I looked down just as water, a little at first, then more, seeped under the door and out onto the porch.

I stepped back and booted the door.
 
 
 

Review

"Putnam’s thrilling sequel to 2014’s The Disposables finds Bruno Johnson, a former L.A. sheriff’s cop, settled in Costa Rica with his wife, Marie, and the eight abused children they rescued and took (illegally) from the U.S. Early in his career, Johnson intervened in a violent domestic case and managed to save the life of five-year-old Jonas Mabry. Now an adult, Jonas has kidnapped two young girls and will deal only with Johnson. Johnson is unable to resist the appeal of Montclair, Calif., police chief Barbra Wicks, and returns to California to track down Jonas. Jonas proves to be a diabolically clever opponent as he runs circles around Johnson, leading him down one blind alley after another and forcing him to make desperate moves. Putnam steadily ratchets up the tension, while memorable supporting characters, like the courageous Marie, help engage reader interest."
(Publishers Weekly)

The hero of this rowdy novel made his first appearance two years ago in The Disposables. The sequel
makes quick mention of the earlier adventure in an opening chapter, then gets down to the violent life of
ex-cop, ex-con Bruno Johnson. The plot motor is a twist on a detective-story standby: a long-forgotten
crime surfaces to haunt the hero. But here it’s Johnson’s good deed that sets things off. In a stunning
opening, we flashback to a day when Johnson rescued a child shot by his mother. Now the child is grown
up and mean, and he’s seeking, for reasons the author withholds till the finale, a nutty revenge. Johnson
had hoped for the tamer life of a bartender, but he must go rogue again and, this time, battle thieves and
killers before bringing the story home. The narrative charges ahead full tilt, like a bullet train. Readers may
find the plot overcomplicated, and the good-hearted heels a bit of a stretch, but that hardly matters when
the action won’t slow down, and we’re with the story all the way.

(Booklist)

"The Replacements is listed as a thriller. And it is just that. As the plot thickens, Bruno's heart is racing as will yours as you read of his exploits. You know that he is wanted by the FBI. But on realizing that he is giving his kids a life free of fear and torture, you just have to be on his side. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am anxiously awaiting the next episode."

―Bookloons.com
(―Bookloons.com)

“The three-dimensional characters (especially the villain) turn this urban jungle sequel to The Disposables into a fantastic cat and mouse thriller. Loaded with suspense that intensifies throughout, Jonas proves a very competent puppeteer pulling the strings of valiant desperate Bruno and equally brave Marie.”
(The Midwest Book Review)

"The novel is fast paced and entertaining. At some points, the plot does become a bit tangled and more complex than it needs to be, but the book’s saving points are always its adventure and characters. Unlike most action novels, the narrative does not shy away from being emotionally complicated, delving into the mental repercussions of kidnapping and murder. This allows the book to carve a unique identity for itself in a genre riddled with similar plots and characters. Fans of action novels will get the most out of this book. While it is a sequel, reading the first in the series is not necessary to enjoy the second book.”

(ForeWord Reviews)

The Replacements is a book that reels you in with the hope of a happy story, but first drags you along the rocks of despair. It shows the reader that even through trials and heartache, one can still come out strong and righteous.”
(Killer Nashville)

“Harsh, brutal, violent – Bruno is not averse to employing a bit of the aforementioned in his efforts to get him closer to the missing kids. So probably not a book for the faint-hearted.
I loved it myself….great characters with heart, doses of humour and plenty of action. Unlikely characters, such as Karl Drago – our whale-like bank robber revealing hidden depths of humanity and stoicism and a desire to do the right thing, despite all the previous evidence to the contrary.
A fantastic read.
5 from 5

(―Col’s Criminal Library)

 
 

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