Dan Flanigan’s On Lonesome Roads is the third in a series of hardboiled detective thrillers set in the 1980s. The stories focus on the exploits of Vietnam veteran turned private investigator Peter O’Keefe and his hazardous run-ins with law enforcement and the criminal underworld during his investigations.
As the story opens, O’Keefe is recovering from burns sustained in a car bombing. Police blamed the bombing on a felon from a previous O’Keefe case who had since died, so they stopped investigating. But O’Keefe decided to pursue the inquiry. He must now navigate some tricky waters, dodging the organized crime syndicate everyone believes is accountable, other felons and law enforcement officials.
Tightly plotted and meticulously structured, this is a compelling crime thriller that makes excellent use of its 1980s context, a time when increased law enforcement was weakening the Mafia. It also employs superior character development to recount its tale of desperate detectives, warring gangsters, and obsessive law enforcement in Reagan-era America.
Leaning fully into the moral complexity of neo-noir detective archetypes, Flanigan delivers a noble, intelligent, impulsive sleuth whose dysfunctional domestic life, post-traumatic stress disorder and propensity for attracting trouble yield a complicated, likeable personality. O’Keefe is surrounded by a delightful assortment of supporting characters who add texture to his world. There’s 11-year-old daughter Kelly, who embarks on her own investigation parallel to her dad’s; ambitious U.S. Attorney Russel Lord; morally questionable detective Lt. Steven Ross; and Mafia princess/femme-fatale Rose Jagoda Sciorra, with whom O’Keefe strikes up a perilous partnership.
While the novel’s slow build might be off-putting to some readers, the sacrifice of narrative urgency in favor of character development and structural integrity ensures that readers are emotionally invested and that the novel’s surprises are satisfying and dramatic.
This is an engrossing crime thriller that, despite being part of a series, easily stands alone. It’s highly recommended for Michael Connelly fans.
Also available in hardcover, ebook, and audio book.