GUN GAMES is the twenty-first entry in the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series. Peter is a lieutenant in the Los Angeles homicide unit. Rina is his wife and unofficial partner in his cases. In the first twenty books, the crime was center stage and Peter and Rina moved the action along. The primary problem with this twenty-first book is the absence of Rina and Peter. Peter plays a secondary role but the central character of this outing is Gabe Whitman, the fifteen year-old genius who is living with the Deckers.
Gabe is home-schooled and has been accepted to Harvard and Julliard. His passion is music and his talent as a pianist suggests a very successful career in his future. At fifteen, Gabe social c0nnections are minimal, music is his world. But Gabe’s life before the Deckers, has prepared him to deal with bullying in an unexpected way. Dylan Lashay is a bully and he decides to make Gabe a victim even though they are strangers . He intimidates Gabe by showing him a gun. Gabe buries Dylan in a torrent of gun facts and admits that his real name is Donatti and his father is a killer, a member of the Mafia.
Peter Decker finds himself agreeing to investigate the suicide of Gregory Hesse, a student at Bell and Wakefield, the same school Dylan attends. His mother insists that Gregory had no interest in guns and wouldn’t now how to get one. Then Myra Gelb, another student at the same school, commits suicide. Another teenager with no experience with guns, Myra gets a gun and someone shows her how to use it. An investigation shows that Bell and Wakefield has a problem. Rich and priviledged students have created their own Mafia, terrorizing because he has the power to do so.
The bulk of the story tells the tale of Gabe’s relationship with Yasmine Nourmand, a fourteen year-old as musically gifted as Gabe. The two teenagers form a bond. Yasmine is a Persian Jew; Gabe is a Catholic living with the Orthodox Jewish Deckers. Yasmine is protected and her parents would not allow her the brief contacts, mostly text messages, that she has with Gabe. The Deckers are happy that Gabe has found a friend but they understand that this friendship will end when the Nourmands learn of it. Gabe’s world is not the same world Yasmine inhabits.
The author does shine some light on the fascination with guns that defines us in some countries. The title GUN GAMES suggests guns are not always considered the instruments of death and injury that they so often are.
GUN GAMES is a young adult novel with a mystery tacked on. I hope the twenty-second book in the series goes back to the formula that has succeeded so well.