The Ruthless is a crime thriller with a gritty authenticity that is at home in the disquieting battle between crime and law enforcement. An engrossing plot and complex characters ensure that this novel is hard to put down. This is the eighth book in the Bruno Johnson series and while I now wish I’d read the previous books, I don’t feel I was short-changed reading this out of order. Bruno Johnson is a Los Angeles County Deputy Sherriff, resourceful and tough, who relentlessly pursues answers and justice regardless of the cost.
Bruno is working undercover as Karl Higgins on a gun sting operation that is being run out of Transworld Freightliners. The transition into this underground role has left him keeping secrets from those close to him and appearing to have broken faith with those that knew him from law enforcement. Just as things are heating up in the sting, he learns that his old friend Judge Connors and his wife are murdered in a brutal shooting. Initial investigation raises issues and now the obligation to see this through to find the killer has him hooked.
Bruno’s family situation is an unremitting stream of tragedy and heartbreak. His teenage daughter, Olivia, is found dead from an apparent heroin overdose, and one of her twins has disappeared. Bruno’s intuition is that her thug partner Derek Sams is responsible and knows where his grandson is, or what has happened to him. Sams is currently in the middle of a trial that Bruno is trying to keep tabs on.
With three main crime strands being developed I worried that it may be too much to maintain a balance, but they are wonderfully plotted and add to the sense of a relentless and committed role Bruno plays with his job. It is not surprising with the amount of stress and tragedy he endures, that psychological strain will surface. Bruno talks to his father for support and this provides the perfect counterbalance to the damage and bitterness that has dominated. The relationship Bruno and his father have brings a dimension to the story that adds colourful depth and background, with the sharing of advice, concern and the telling of how Bruno’s mother walked out on them when he was a child, resonates with his own partner and daughter.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that David Putnam had been in law enforcement for a large part of his career, as he pulls on all the authentic terminology and methods imaginable. The dialogue is clever and distinctive and creates a uniquely dark yet hopeful atmospheric thriller that captivates with great assurance in this unforgettable novel.
I would highly recommend this novel and I would like to thank Oceanview Publishing, David Putnam and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.