"Cold Steel Rain" is a gripping thriller that is probably best read on a vacation, or any other period where large blocks of time can be dedicated to finishing the novel within a few days. This novel has so many characters, plots and sub-plots, that if, like me, you occasionally have to put the book down for a few days to deal with real life, by the time you pick it up again it is easy to have forgotten many plot details and characters.
The novel provides an excellent depiction of political corruption in Louisiana, where it appears almost everyone, from the Speaker of the House to local cops, are on the take. One of my favorite political scams as described in the book, involves Jimmy Boudrieux, the Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives calling for mandatory gun-safety classes as a requirement of handgun ownership. Seems like a concerned politician worried about the safety of his constituency, right? Turns out one of Boudrieux's political cronies is adding gun training classes as an additional profit center to his gun stores (stores Boudrieux is an investor in).
The primary plot of the novel centers around Danny Chaisson, a former idealistic attorney with the D.A.'s office, who was been reduced to little more than a courier of payoff money for Jimmy Boudrieux. When Danny appears to have lost his usefulness to the Speaker after being a witness to an extremely brutal restaurant murder, it looks like Boudreiuex and his associates may be ready to put Danny out to pasture.
One of the things that Abel does especially well in "Cold Steel Rain" is seamlessly slip in detailed biographies of most major characters in the novel, without letting this information interfere with the flow of the plot. If I had a major criticism of the novel, it would be that I simply thought it was maybe 100 pages or so too long. Whereas the first 2/3rds of the story threw off my regular sleep schedule because I couldn't bear to put the book down no matter how late it got, the final third or so was somewhat of a chore to labor through. A good editing would have improved this novel greatly.
Another small, probably petty, complaint I had with the book was the authors overuse of italics. After awhile, italics were used so often that it almost seemed like an insult to the intelligence of the reader, as if the author didn't think his readers would otherwise understand what points or concepts were important to grasp. Also, when writing the internal dialogue of the novels black characters, the author, who isn't, chose to do so in slang, which I found to be somewhat annoying, and hardly believable. Similarly, I had to cringe when the author, a male, tried to write in the internal voice of the young, female ATF agent as she started to find herself sexually attracted to Danny Chaisson. Note to the author: Simply ending every sentence with "girl" does not make a character sound authentically feminine. Luckily, this is a pretty minor portion of the book.
The author appears to want this novel to work not only as a thriller, but also as a sort of social novel about the struggle of the black underclass. There's a subplot about a renegade community activist who tries to keep the young black men in his community from going down the path of gangs and guns. The author illustrates how cheap, illegal guns sold by white dealers can infiltrate a black neighborhood, while at the same time not taking away the personal responsibility of those who keep these dealers in business by buying and using their product. While occasionally a bit preachy in this area, it was definitely an eye opener.