Moving along in series order at last, the third of Rick Mofina's Jack Gannon series, In Desperation (2011), delivers all the expected crime fiction thrills and more than the usual amount of not-quite-far-enough-offstage gore.
While Mofina's standard formula is in good working order, this time he raises the stakes for intrepid crime reporter Jack Gannon (I feel like that last phrase should be capitalized and intoned, and perhaps include "Stately Wayne Manor" somewhere) by having the kidnapping victim be the daughter of Jack's long-lost sister Cora, whose boyfriend has secretly gotten in over his head with a group of Mexican drug smugglers and then inconveniently disappeared. It's all very topical, straight from the headlines, etc. A little girl in danger is even more of a guaranteed button-pusher than a single mother (though he tags that part of the formula too, with Cora), and Tilly Martin is a spunky eleven-year-old whose personality Mofina fills out enough that she is more than a plot device and notably less generic than his usual victim-in-waiting. Gannon also has a conflict of interest, since his official assignment is reporting on drug-related murders on the Mexican side of the border, and in trying to help his sister he crosses the line from journalist to participant in a breaking story. This gives him an interesting ethical juggling act to perform for much of the book.
Viewpoint characters include not only Gannon but Cora, Tilly, Cora's boyfriend, and the youthful assassin that the Mexican gang sends to execute Tilly. The assassin's desire to end his career and his relationship with the priest to whom he confesses are an interesting subplot.
While Jack has gone on about Cora repeatedly in both the previous books, all the necessary background is provided here, and the book easily stands alone.
About that gore: Mofina doesn't generally put much of the blood and guts on the page, and thankfully he does not do so here. But there is a chainsaw. It gets used. There is an aftermath scene. And severed heads. Plural. My imagination was stimulated unpleasantly by all this, which is a tribute to Mofina's skill as a writer. Those hypersensitive to the idea of very messy violence should be prepared.
All in all, it's a brisk read with effective tension and an ending that avoids the easy out; perfect summer reading for crime fiction fans.