Jake Denton is a member of the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department. Most days his job entails the things most people associate with being a police officer: going to roll call and briefings, patrolling his assigned beat, trying his best to make sure he and the people he is sworn to serve and protect all go home safely at the end of his shift.
Some days, however, a call comes in that drastically changes Denton’s objective. On those days, odds are high not only won’t everyone be going home safely at the end of Denton’s shift, but that someone won’t be going home ever again. Because of Denton.
On those days, Denton rolls out with the other members of Cameron County Sheriff’s Department’s special weapons and tactics team—Denton is SWAT, the team’s designated sniper.
As Done in One opens, Denton and the SWAT team are called out to a hostage situation in a mini-mart, one police officer having already been killed by the would-be robber. As he’s done sixteen times previously in the line of duty, Denton uses his highly-honed skill to take out the criminal and save the hostage. The manner in which it goes down, however, is slightly different than in times past, earning Denton a mandated trip to a psychologist before he’s allowed back on SWAT rotation.
Complicating matters, however, are a series of shootings that could only be carried out by a highly skilled marksman—possibly one of the department’s own, past or present. And while it’s the hunt to unravel the mystery of who the shooter is that drives the story on the surface, it’s really the interactions between Denton and those around him that are the heart of Done in One. As Denton struggles, arguably for the first time, to really examine what it is he does for a living, we see the life of a sniper as reflected by the people in his life.
Denton’s wife, herself a former firefighter and EMT, understands Denton as much as anyone who doesn’t actually walk in the shoes of a sniper can, and struggles to strike the right balance between being supportive and making sure he’s honest with both her and himself. His partner and spotter, Kathryn Sesak, is being groomed by Denton to be a sniper. Through their conversations, both in training and on location at call outs, we learn the depth of the sacrifice a SWAT sniper makes in committing to the job, a job that requires one to be on call 24/7/365. There is no “off duty” for a sniper. His other fellow officers, both SWAT and regular duty, seem split between being somewhat in awe of what it is Denton does and resenting the big man on campus status it brings him. Finally, flashbacks to Denton’s childhood on his father’s ranch reveal the matter-of-fact and pragmatic way his father taught him to deal with death—and killing.
It all adds up to a no-holds-barred look at what it truly means to be a SWAT sniper, which is a far different picture than most probably have in mind given what we’re normally presented with on TV and in the movies. Adding an undeniable verisimilitude to the story is the fact that co-author Jan Thomas is herself the wife of a retired police sniper. (You can read her guest post here.) Between the details she brings to the table and the talent co-author Grant Jerkins has continually demonstrated for crafting dark, psychologically-driven stories (A Very Simple Crime, At the End of the Road), Done in One makes for an enjoyable read on several levels—come for the fast-paced whodunnit thriller, stay for the psychological peek behind the mask of a man who kills for a living.
Done in One is available from Thomas Dunne (ISBN: 978-1250054869).