In The Warlord of Willow Ridge, by Gary Phillips, career criminal O’Conner lays low in an abandoned suburban home while he waits for his next score. Making the best of it, he finds his unique skill set comes in handy in dealing with the dark side of suburban life. For instance, he quickly and efficiently dispatches a local miscreant, making him a hero to his new neighbors. Later, he uncovers a local meth lab, and then discerns the presence of a motorcycle gang, hoping that their activities won’t negatively impact his plans. He also falls in love, which always complicates things.
Phillips is a great plotter and an efficient writer. He’s also good at creating a convincing cast, the main evidence being the instant rapport he conjures between antihero O’Conner and readers. Besides being a convincing crime thriller, the novel also makes some pointed, if covert, comments about modern suburban life.