Twenty-eight-year-old Penelope Rideout takes a seat in Roland Ford's office, says that her 14-year-old sister, Daley, is missing and asks, ``Can you find her?''
Ford replies, ``I'm good at what I do.''
In the former Marine's seven-year career as a Southern California private eye, he's never failed to locate someone he was hired to find. But in ``The Last Good Guy,'' the third book in veteran crime novelist T. Jefferson Parker's Roland Ford series, tracking down Daley will prove to be no easy task.
Penelope says her sister has ``a wild streak'' and has taken up with a 20-year-old dog walker named Nick Moreno, so, of course, Ford heads directly to the guy's apartment. There he finds Moreno has been shot dead. Neighbors say they saw two men hustle Daley away in a van.
Complicating matters, Ford, who hasn't had a date since his wife died in a plane crash, is both drawn to _ and mistrustful of _ Penelope. When he learns that an ex-husband she told him about never existed, he wonders what else she is lying about. Before long, he finds himself doubting whether Daley is even Rideout's sister.
From this worrisome start, the search for Daley leads Ford to a mysterious date farm with military-grade security. There, just for asking about the girl, he is severely beaten.
The trail subsequently leads him to a security firm owned by a racist billionaire, a decommissioned nuclear plant and a charismatic evangelist who may or may not be a pedophile. He has a growing suspicion the child may be a pawn in a terrorist plot.
Although all of this may seem wildly unlikely, Parker does a fine job of pulling the threads together and maintaining the tension as Ford strives to maintain his perfect record for finding missing people while trying to decide if he can safely give his heart to Penelope.
Best of all, Parker tells the tale in tight, vivid prose that at times borders on the lyrical.