The Dawn Patrol
Don Winslow
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Buy *The Dawn Patrol* by Don Winslow online

The Dawn Patrol
Don Winslow
320 pages
June 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Winslow’s latest adventure touches on surf lore and local history, the gradual evolution of San Diego’s beach community and the locals who live for the waves, rising real estate values and creative entrepreneurs. Still, for some, it is always and only about the waves, that big one just over the horizon that hits only every few years. When ex-cop P.I. Boone Daniels agrees to help a drop-dead gorgeous lawyer locate a witness in an insurance scam case, it is with the caveat that he will start as soon as the monster set makes its appearance.

Unfortunately, a lack of financial fluidity forces Boone, the ultimate surfer who works only to support his full-time hobby, to get right down to business praying the wave doesn’t hit until he’s finished. The search gets a little complicated when a stripper takes a free dive from a third-story motel balcony; Boone hastens to the scene to see if it is “his” stripper. With the lawyer, Petra Hall, riding shotgun, Boone begins a dizzying journey through strip clubs and an assortment of local venues on the trail of an elusive witness with a contract on her head.

The two worlds could not be more dissimilar, Boone’s best pals and fellow surfers, the Dawn Patrol, potentially in jeopardy as he delves into the underbelly of local criminal enterprise and drug activity. Petra following like a shadow, Boone turns over a lot of rocks looking for his prey, uncovering some really ugly facts that thrive far from the light of day. While his Dawn Patrol pals are drawn into the ensuing chaos by the tentacles of association, Boone must weigh his innate integrity while on the job, with some of the immediate fallout in his wake.

Reveling in the California coast, its eccentricities and unusual characteristics, Winslow paints a picture of a land in transition, albeit gradual, the laid-back insouciance of surfer mentality with the encroaching of corporate greed, an increasingly violent drug culture and the gated enclaves where the wealthy shelter from the world around them.

Skipping back and forth from the fascinating details of the history of the Pacific Coast Highway, the loyal surf community and fluctuating economics of coastal development and exploitation, the novel wallows deceptively in the counterculture of a group of friends with fixed priorities regardless of the passage of time. An assortment of colorful characters people Pacific Beach and local environs, from Red Eddie, a local dealer, to Dan Silver, a strip club owner, and his band of murderous thugs.

Petra grows more attractive with each dangerous encounter, the long-troubled Boone still haunted by a painful failure while on the SDPD. Waiting for the big wave, the thrilling chase for the missing stripper and unexpected confrontations between lifelong buddies, one might think the author has mellowed. Not to worry. What first appears a simple case becomes far more compelling as Boone struggles to make sense of conflicting clues.

What he discovers is an activity so heinous that Winslow’s protagonist is able finally to confront his own self-doubts and face the future a wiser man. As the Dawn Patrol takes on new meaning, Winslow pulls of the usual sleight of hand, surprising readers with the harsh realities that underlie the beauty of the Pacific coast, the setting but a façade for a gut-wrenching enterprise that pollutes society. Evil lurks in unexpected places, whether we choose to see it or not.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2008

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