”Bad Moon Rising: A Parker McLeod Thriller,” by A. Hardy Roper, 2019, West Bay Publishing, $16.95

Another spicy mystery novel full of Galveston Garhole Bar gumbo is served up by A. Hardy Roper in his fourth Parker McLeod thriller, a “Bad Moon Rising.”

Old characters, and I mean characters, are here again, shotgun wielding, Molly with one eye Bully, wheel-chaired octogenarians shacked up somewhere near Texas City. Provocative T-shirts, Neddie, the profit beer drinking part-time proprietor at the Garhole Bar and the East End’s GHF’s Harry Stein, the 5-foot 6-inch always smart dresser.

Plus, a new crew of characters, ATF, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Galveston Police Department’s Col. Bubbie and Kathy Landry the sketch artist, with the good looks to go with her Mustang and later Parker.

The plot is plausible and complex always with smart-aleck funny asides. Dr. Anna Lang, of course, a looker, shows up at Bully’s claiming to be his long lost granddaughter from Germany. Parker McLeod, Bully’s nephew, owner of the Garhole Bar and recovering wounded veteran intelligence officer shows up provoking a disputed kinship standoff.

A bomb goes off just before a VIP speech at the Coast Guard Station, killing several; critically burning the homeland secretary, retired Gen. Perry, who took out a leading Islamic terrorist in Beirut in front of his sons. Now adults, they want revenge.

Parker, nearby shows up and begins to triage the wounded when he looks up to see Anna taking charge of Secretary Perry’s care as he is whisked off to UTMB’s state of the art Burn Center.

Roper employs a clever author’s voice technique, with the book taking two paths, alternating chapters between the terrorist actions in the voice of narration and Parker’s involvement in first person. The reader observes the two sides of a coin, with hints that the paths will meet. Actually, they met in Parker’s history.

Thoroughly described are interagency pettiness and expertise while investigating the bombing and trying to prevent another attempt. Focus is on the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Lab Four, where research is completed on the world’s deadliest poisons, led by a targeted Dr. Anna Lang. Meanwhile, a professor at a leading Louisiana university disappears with a vial of anthrax.

Through the tale, Roper shakes detailed dashes of interesting Galveston history, weather and geography — just don’t turn left from Broadway on 25th Street. There’s no need to have read previous McLeod books, other than for enjoyment, Roper works past events and persons into this adventure.

Pages turn rapidly, like sailing with a perfect wind, tacking and jibbing as the story picks up, until the keel slowly goes aground in a detailed discussion worthy of a manual on every terrorist attack from the Marine barracks through McVeigh to 9/11.

Then the pace picks back up and races with twists and turns to almost bringing all the parties together, the bad guys and good. But not quite, Roper leaves the reader a bit hungry for more.

While revealing who done it and how, Roper sets the table for the fifth book of thrills for Parker McLeod.

Lucky for us.

Alvin Sallee lives in Galveston.

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