The arrival of a new book from Don Easton fills me with both joy and dread, in the sense that once I start reading, I’ll be thrown into a brutal world of crime fiction filled with some of the most loathsome characters ever. These books make me want to scrub myself raw after certain portions, which is a good thing if you are looking for some truly under-your-skin type of writing.
With BIRDS OF A FEATHER, Don Easton continues his Jack Taggart series, taking the action south of the border, down Mexico way. But first, we get another gut-punch opening that will delight fans of the series. This time we witness an undercover U.S. customs agent gets caught by a Mexican drug cartel, and anyone who has read a Taggart book knows this is not going to turn out well. And that is just an appetizer of things to come.
Taggart’s mission is to track down a girl who is a friend of the family and who got mixed up with a much older man who seems to have ties to that very same cartel. Once Taggart is shipped down to Texas, he is set up with a partner named John Adams, who readers will learn quickly is pretty much a carbon copy of Taggart when it comes to action. So close are they that a running subplot is Adams’ higher-ups are trying to capture him for actions they can’t prove, playing to the book’s title.
Easton really piles it on for Taggart to work through, especially with Taggart setting himself up with a cover as a representative of a Canadian motorcycle gang. Those who have read the previous books know full well which gang. This entry very much takes a ripped-from-the headlines approach with the whole aspect of the cartels and crooked cops in Mexico. BIRDS OF A FEATHER is filled with moments of sheer terror that will keep the readers turning pages faster and faster as it builds. Easton’s style is so brutal, you might put the book down after a few chapters just to catch your breath, and also to be glad you aren’t living it.
The book can easily be picked up as an entry into the series — very little carryover, nothing spoiled — but I do suggest at least reading the first novel, LOOSE ENDS, beforehand so you’ll have a sense of not only Easton’s style, but how truly unnerving the world of Jack Taggart can get. —Bruce Grossman