The Disposables is officially the first book in the Bruno Johnson series, set in LA, about a Black ex Sheriff’s Deputy who went to prison for killing the man responsible for the deaths of his daughter and grandson, and is now making it his mission to rescue abused children from so-called carers who want them only for the welfare cheques they bring in. The chronology of these books can be confusing, as after writing the first four, the author published four prequels, of which I’ve read book 8, which cover the time before Bruno goes to prison, and then continues the story on back in the present with book 9, The Sinister, which I read last year. Book 10 is published in February, so I’ll be starting an ARC of that shortly. Confused yet? Don’t worry – the reality is that other than being spoiled about what’s coming, especially who’s not going to survive, these can be read in any order, which is the author’s intention, but I think going forward I will follow the chronological order not the publication sequence. As it happens though, I was glad to have got to know the softer side of Bruno first, as here the emphasis is very much on how violent and scary he is.
Bruno is a 40-something year old ex-con, on parole after a two year stretch for the murder of his evil drug-dealing son-in-law Derek Sams. Prior to this he was part of the elite Violent Crimes Unit, a team of thuggish poorly regulated deputies under the leadership of psychopathic lieutenant Robbie Wicks, who wear matching BMF tattoos – with the B standing for Brutal (you can guess the other letters.) Now Bruno is preparing to leave the USA with the seven young children he and his devoted girlfriend Marie have liberated from horrific home circumstances, but the law sees them as kidnappers, so they must stay under the radar – and Bruno must raise enough money to support them, by any means necessary. Meanwhile Wicks is hunting a serial killer who burns his victims alive, and wants Bruno’s help – but can he be trusted or does his nemesis have another agenda?
This was a fast paced action-packed thriller, narrated in first person past style, featuring an honourable but flawed hero picking himself up after a terrible time, determined to follow his own code after the justice system let him down. The author is a former police officer with a career spanning the various types of law enforcement, who has clearly seen the gritty desperation and despair amongst society’s rejects, and the horrors caused by drugs – and takes us right there: “The insidious tentacles of narcotics burrow deep into the fabric of society.” He has a unique writing style which becomes more evident in the later books. We also witness the corrosive institutionalised racism endured by Black citizens, whether victim, bystander or criminal – this was published in 2014 so well before Black Lives Matter hit the headlines, and the corruption within the police, who are more interested in making high profile arrests and beating up those they decide deserve it, than serving their community. Despite this, it’s not a depressing story, and as we learn more about Bruno’s journey, the more sympathy he elicits. There’s violence but not gore, and it’s not gratuitous. I’ve said this before, but I’m still surprised this author isn’t better known – I’ve already bought the rest of the series and will be reading them as soon as I can. Recommended if you like intelligent vigilante thrillers and tough-as heroes.