Learning that Johnny Shaw is releasing a new book is akin to learning they have moved Christmas to whatever month it currently is. Learning that the new book is a return to the Jimmy Veeder series is akin to having Christmas fall on your birthday…it’s the gift that keeps giving.
Veeder is back in a big way in Imperial Valley, the third installment of what will hopefully be a very long series. In tow for this adventure is his best buddy, Bobby, and Shaw instills their relationship and banters with some of the best quips and one-liners this side of Todd Robinson’s Junior and Boo series. The interactions between the pair of friends-till-the-end are a strength to this series and this book showcases their growing friendship.
Since we last saw Veeder, he has been raising his brother, Juan, as his son. When his old friend, Tomas Morales reaches out to him and informs him as to the whereabouts of Juan’s grandfather, Veeder decides to travel to Mexico in search of the man to inform him of his daughter’s (Juan’s mother) untimely demise. In an attempt to mix business with pleasure, Veeder takes his new wife along in an attempt to have a honeymoon.
But not far behind them is Veeder’s aforementioned buddy Bobby, hired thugs looking to keep Veeder safe, hired thugs looking to do Veeder harm, and a Mexican drug lord who, upon learning he is the grandfather to Juan decides he will stop at nothing to find and possess Juan. When Veeder defeats him and his henchmen, but leaves him alive, it sets off a chain reaction of Veeder always looking over his shoulder; never knowing if he can keep his family safe or if his decision to not deliver the fatal blow to his new enemy will end with him losing everything he treasures.
In an attempt to keep his family safe, Veeder can turn only to the people who he treats as family and they answer his call for help. In a battle against the biggest guns in the area, Veeder and friends must hope against hope that they can prevail against men who will stop at nothing to get what they seek. In a battle this big, the most humbling knowledge is the knowledge of knowing the smallest slip up can lead to the biggest loss.
Ultimately, this is a story about loyalty, family, and holding onto the bonds we build with the people we love. It mixes humor with great insight into the many things in life that leave us vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. There were a few times in the book in which I questioned if humor was used in spots that didn’t ring true, but overall Veeder Fiasco novels are shaping up to be one of the best series going. I am already anxiously awaiting the next in the series.