Don Winslow is an unqualified gem. A California writer who uses his intimate knowledge of the Pacific Coast area, Winslow crafts his stories - often deceptively lighthearted - with a master’s eye for theme and structure and the keen vision of one who appreciates the many faces of humanity. The Gentlemen's Hour follows the prior novel, The Dawn Patrol, as a tight-knit band of surf-brothers claim Pacific Beach in San Diego as their sacred place, practice unshakable loyalty in their dealings with one another, and value their time in the ocean as the extraordinary experience it is for young men with one foot in reality, the other anchored to their boards.
The fact that they must each leave the beach for gainful employment every morning does little to tarnish the time spent in communion with the waves - though there aren’t any this year. That Boone Daniels falls in love throws a wrench in the unassailable brotherhood when he takes a case that goes against the very personal ideology of the group. Thus begins the gradual, rancorous dissolution of childhood friendships. Time has moved inexorably on, the simplicity of youth fleeting as Boone begins to weigh the costs of an extended adolescence with the yearning for family and security that comes belatedly upon him.
As a PI for defense attorney Petra Hall, veteran surfer Daniels has fallen hard for the lady, resistant at first when she requests his help in having her client’s charges reduced from capital murder to manslaughter. The truth is, Corey Blasingame, nineteen, was an active participant in the tragic death of surf legend Kelly Kuhio. Kuhio was, in fact, Boone’s mentor, the wise sage who spun every potentially bad situation into compromise, calming the rowdier aspects of a group which protects Pacific Beach with their goodwill and sometimes their bouncer skills. But Petra’s case is strong, a reasonable argument for reduced charges and the complicity of others besides Corey the night of the death.
Daniels learns there’s more to Corey’s case than a late-night confrontation, including a series of underhanded real estate deals and the shady influence of drug money, the Baja Cartel making obvious moves into California, seeking legitimacy behind the façade of business investment. Another case - seemingly unrelated - delivers Boone into the middle of a troubled marriage with a cheating wife, but it isn’t until a murder and his own kidnapping that Daniels puts the pieces together in a massive conspiracy, a cat-and-mouse plot to defraud and corrupt that defies even his vivid imagination.
Peopled with the usual colorful characters and surfing euphemisms that Winslow excels in portraying, the Southern California coast is deceptively beautiful. Just below the surface, crime and corruption breed strange bedfellows and monsters-for-hire who relish their work with obscene glee. Boone pushes the limits on this one, as well at the loyalties of his friends. It’s a cold world without the camaraderie of buddies whose blood pumps salt water, the surf pounding beneath the feet of mortals.