Blood Lines - Mel Odom "Tell him for me that if he don't believe in God now, he should start real soon"
The third NCIS book by Mel Odom was a must have for me, particularly after the last two wonderful books.
Shel has always had a tough relationship with his aloof father. But things are about to get much worse when Shel kills Bobby Lee, the son of Victor Gant, a former Vietnam soldier and leader of a drug-slinging gang, the Purple Royals. Now, the NCIS team must gather enough evidence to keep Shel from Victor's vengeance and put Victor away for good. Meanwhile, Shel is about to learn what his father, Tyrel, has been keeping from him and how it relates to Victor

What I Liked:
This is a different story than the previous two entries. It is a far more personal book, which is surprising as the last two were very personal as well (the first dealing with Will and his relationship to his wife and kids and the second dealing with Nita's family drama). In this book, however, there is no mystery to who the killer is. The mystery is instead: what is Tyrel hiding that makes Victor threaten him? Will Shel and his father reunite? And will Victor Gant get his vengeance? A very interesting twist and definitely keeps the reader from being bored with the same procedural/whodunnit.
I liked how Odom set much of the story in Texas and got away from the East Coast. I love the East Coast and all, but it's always nice for our NCIS team to get away and investigate other areas of the country.
Also, I enjoyed the flashbacks, how the viewpoint switched to the past for the appropriate sections. That was much more effective than a long, boring story that Tyrel tells his son (or that McGowen tells Maggie and Remy). In fact, the whole scene: Tyrel telling Shel, McGowen telling Maggie and Remy, and the switching to the past was a well done move, balancing between how the characters are behaving present day while still getting the action and visceral pain of the past. A smart move on Odom's part.
My favorite character was by far Victor Gant. Although he is terrible at actually causing harm to anyone in this book (and he was so good in Vietname??), he is an interesting character. I liked his Vietnam history, his affinity to his son, and his stubbornness. I found myself eagerly anticipating his sections and was rooting for HIM at the end, oddly enough.
Also, the father-son reuniting scene at the end was very touching.

What I Did Not Like:
The first thing I noticed about this book that makes it so much different than its predecessors is that it is incredibly slow! In the past two books, the key incident happens early on and avalanches, the suspense and intrigue building on each page. But in Bloodlines, I felt that things drug on forever. A lot of time is spent on hinting at things, dragging it out so that it stops being interesting and just becomes frustrating. For example, it takes Tyrel an eternity to divulge this big secret that he's been holding for 40 years (basically the entire book, as he only drops bread crumbs about it throughout, which is terribly annoying). By the time he does reveal it, I couldn't help but think, "And this is what I spent 100+ pages waiting for???" Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy suspense, but this whole plot point to me was much less about suspense and more about dragging it out, and that drove me nuts. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to yell, "Just tell me already what the big deal is! Enough of this drippy melodrama!"
But the whole book is melodrama, really. I feel everyone acts so dramatic about things that just don't feel that way to me. Shel mopes and gropes about his daddy (what adult male not living at home calls his father "daddy" anyway?) being aloof with him throughout the whole book. I swear each time his viewpoint appears, at least one page has to deal with recounting how isolated he feels from his father, how much like his dad he is, and agonizing over Victor Grant's threat about his "daddy" (even in the middle of an action sequence!!). Don isn't much better. He wangsts about how little like his dad he is, how stubborn Tyrel and Shel are, how his daddy was mean to him, and if it is possible to lie (what the hell?? Aren't we breaking some commandments here??) about his father's involvement in Dennis' murder. And then Tyrel still wangsts about the crimes he committed in the past, suddenly wallowing his sorrows in alcohol, throwing a big pity party because he's a crappy father, husband, and grandfather. You know, I like conflict. And family conflict can be done well. But it seems whenever these guys are shown, they have to spend all this time recounting their sorrows and whining about them. Let's grow up, guys. Let's stop being PMSing women and be men. I know this is a tough situation, that some bad stuff happened, but isn't this supposed to be about getting a bad guy, not "Days of Our Lives" or "Dallas" or something? Wangst on your own time! We got a killer out on the loose!
What makes it REALLY bad is when we finally learn the story of what happens in Vietnam (summary for those who don't want it spoiled: it was pathetic).

A drunk Tyrel let Victor drag him out into the jungle so that Victor could get his drugs, which he was handling at the time. Tyrel sees what he believes is "Charlie" and shoots...only to find out it was Dennis instead. Later we find out that Dennis was trying to bust Victor's drug op and was killed by Victor, not Tyrel.
What upsets me is that a man spends FORTY years anguishing over a friendly fire casualty that we end up learning he didn't do ANYWAY. What a friggin' WASTE of reader involvement and time! He pushes away his wife (and how the heck did she spend half that time with the beast?), his kids, his friends, all because he thinks he accidentally shot someone--and someone he really didn't know that great (it never sounded like Dennis was a high school friend or anything). Now, I do understand that the military is different, that lying destroys a person, that seeing someone die is horrible (though I've never experienced it), and that fear of repercussions is a good motivation, but I found it overdrawn and pathetic. Why did Odom have this big build up, all this wangst and drama, which lead me, as the reader, to believe that Tyrel acted out of malice, anger, hatred, greed, whatever, and then heap Tyrel with this accidental murder that he ends up being vindicated of anyway? All it does is make me very mad; mad I invested so much and then be told that it was all a lie! Instead of drawing me closer to Tyrel, it does the complete opposite.

Related to the last two is how little time is spent on actually doing anything. There is no reason or rhyme for why much of what happens happens. It's like Will and his team are tripping through this without any idea how to proceed. Do they put out warrants for this guy's arrest? Try to hunt him down? Try to tap phone lines or whatever you do to find a criminal? No. And when Victor threatens Shel's family, they stand around like idiots, not sure why Shel is leaving and making a big deal about it. Look, guys, Shel said Victor threatened his family. Wouldn't that be enough for him to want to leave? Don't make a bigger deal out of this than it is. It's almost as if they had so little to analyze, that they decided to over-analyze this trivial action. Lame.
And about the team...or should I say, lack thereof. This book doesn't involve all the members working as a unit...not at least until the last half. No, it's about Shel. The other members are thrown about whenever they are needed. Now, I'm not saying that Odom should have forced people where they don't belong. But don't write a book called "NCIS" when it deals with only one team member. At least make an attempt to integrate the whole team. Don't have them fade into the background of non-existence.
Nit Pick Section
1.A five month pregnant woman does not just barely show her pregnancy, particularly if she is thin. I have a thin, tall friend that is four months pregnant and you can see she has a belly.
2.Don going NCIS based on cop/western TV shows doesn't work in the real world. TV is NOT reality, and the things they do on it are often done for suspense, not because it actually works.
3.It is amazing how a short stint in a war forty years ago remains with a rancher enough that he can outwit men half his age. And this line, "since the place is his and he knows every inch of it, he might have killed them all." Number one, what is with Shel's immense pride as his father's ability to kill NOW (Tyrel is a fugitive, even if Gant's team are the bad guys)? And I don't care how well he knows the farm. If I get up at night, I will still run into walls and I've lived in this house for almost 11 years!
4.How does a 70+ year old man able to hold his own against a young Marine? The fist fight between Tyrel and Shel just got to be ludicrous after a while.
5.Why does Odom bother including Max when the poor dog is always being told to stand in a corner out of the fight?
6.Isn't Shel the least bit concerned about the SUV rental being destroyed? I wouldn't be surprised if the rental company never lets him rent from them again.
7.How many times does Don have to act surprised that his father might have murdered someone? We got it the first ten times, thank you, Mr. Brilliant!
8.When did Tyrel create this supposed "new identity" he would take up?
9.Another issue I find funny in a way it was not meant to be was how Remy and Shel singlehandedly can kill 5 out of 10 guys on motorcycles and come out unscathed. Who needs Superman? These guys are the Terminator! Seriously, no injuries, no near misses? What's up with that?
10.Let's just call it like we see it: Tyrel is a Marty Stu. He has committed a supposed wrong, but really, it wasn't his fault. He fights as well as a man half his age and can kill three people in the dark, one of whom he shot while bareback riding a horse out of a barn. He is grumpy and aloof, to protect people.
11.Halfway through the book, the whole FBI drug case drops off the face of the planet.
12.Section breaks, particularly at the beginning, are really strange. Typically, at a new point of view or chapter, there is a three to four line setting: Location, State, Time. Well, in the beginning, you could easily find one of those and a few pages later see only a change in time (like 5 minutes) and no change in scenery or point of view. It was confusing and distracting.
13.I have a hard time believing Vietnam would ever let armed Americans into their country especially for something as trivial as retrieving the body of a forty year old soldier.
14.Sort of brought up earlier, Don being gung-ho about lying about his dad killing Dennis. Aren't you a pastor???

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
One of the great things about Odom is that he alludes to swearing without feeling the need to litter his books with crass words. And he does this perfectly (though they make a huge big deal out of Shel swearing, which I could never quite feel).
Victor goes to bars and clubs containing scantily clad female dancers. Bobby Lee's girlfriend is pregnant.
Bobby Lee shoots the owner of a tattoo parlor and is shot twice in the face by Shel. A deputy is shot. Five members of a motorcycle gang that tries to go after Shel end up dead.

In order to fully enjoy this book, I'll summarize the first part so you can skip the wangst and move on to the second part (starting about page 252): Shel kills Bobby Lee Gant, Victor Gant's son. Victor Gant gets mad and seeks revenge. He finds out Shel is the son of Tyrel McHenry. He threatens Tyrel. Shel goes back to confront Tyrel, see if Victor's claims are true.
There! Now, you can get to the rest of it. Not that there is really much redeeming in the second half anyway...
At first, I felt really disheartened at Blood Evidence, with Nita's wangsting, but was won back at the touching reunion she had with her mom. I am sorry to say, that this book has no redeeming scene, no winning, emotional faceoff that keeps this book out of the gutter. All I see are a family blowing a forty year old incident--which turns out to be as pathetic and disappointing as the rest of this book--out of proportion. The team investigation is almost nonexistent, the action blasé, the plot plodding, and one of the primary characters a Marty Stu. I shudder at doing this, but I feel I must: two out of five.