We met Charlie in L.A. Outlaws, when he tangled with part-time robber Suzanne Jones/Allison Murietta. We saw him begin to be involved in the larger smuggling world by squaring off against corrupt cops in Renegades, and Iron River finds him temporarily attached to a unit working in far southern California and trying to take down drug smugglers and gun runners. Their efforts sometimes seem to have little or no effect in stemming the massive flow of weapons into the hands of corrupt officials and narcotic-dealing warlords in Mexico, the "iron river" of the title.
Charlie and his fellow team members find themselves searching for one of their members whose killing of a drug lord's son brought about his kidnapping. At the same time, there are hints of a large gun deal being brokered with a bankrupt gun manufacturer who doesn't seem to spare much thought for just who might be buying his weapons. How is Bradley Wilson, Suzanne's oldest son, involved? And what role is being played by an accident victim who had Charlie's number in his pocket and a lot of knowledge about ATFE activities that he shouldn't have?
So far, the Hood books have had a lot of classic noir trappings -- the bad guys have a little bit of good in them and the really bad guys don't, and the good guys have something of a darker edge themselves and they don't always win. Iron River keeps that atmosphere alive, showing Charlie as a man in the middle of fighting for a lost cause, maybe because he's the kind of guy who thinks those are the only kinds of causes really worth fighting for. Parker has made Hood an introspective sort, using his handwritten letters to a father with Alzheimer's as a kind of "thinking out loud" device to help us pause and reflect. He's kind of a thinking man's tough guy, or maybe a tough man's thinking guy, depending on your point of view.
Before L. A. Outlaws, Parker wrote mostly standalone crime novels, but he's said in interviews he sees there being about six Charlie Hood books in all, together forming one longer narrative. Border Lords, the fourth Hood novel, was released earlier this year so we probably have a couple more years before Hood's story is finished out. So far, it seems worth the journey.