Drugs and Law Enforcement: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Lethal Target

Faith in a good and gracious God allows us to trust that he always has our best in mind, even when we can’t see it amid the painful circumstances.

by Janice Cantore, author of Lethal Target

Drugs are consistently a huge issue for law enforcement. They cast a long, dark shadow over work on the streets. When I was in uniform, drugs were very often at the root of most crimes at street level in my city. Addicts would steal to support their habits; fights, domestic violence, and assaults often stemmed from drug-impaired thinking; gang members would sell drugs and fight wars over drug turf. Whether it was a burglary victim who’d lost irreplaceable heirlooms left to her by a grandfather, or an elderly woman who’d watched her husband shot in front of her eyes because a drug addict was desperate for a fix and the man didn’t hand over his wallet fast enough, innocent people are often caught in the crossfire. And when tragedy strikes, it’s easy to wonder why God allowed it, or whether he even cares.

Tess O’Rourke, the lead character in my Line of Duty series, moves from a big city, Long Beach California. She spent the bulk of her career there and she’s seen the drug-related tragedies firsthand and understands the drug problem from a law enforcement perspective. But Rogue’s Hollow, Oregon, is a fraction of the size of Long Beach. It’s rural and quiet, everybody knows everybody—surely big city issues haven’t colored the landscape in this small town on the Rogue River.

Unfortunately, in Lethal Target, Tess learns that her quiet, small town is not immune to the plague of drugs that infects big cities. When a promising young man is found dead of an opiate drug overdose, Tess fears the plague may spread. And as chief of police, her goal is to stop the plague and arrest the individuals responsible for the scourge. But instead of a clear-cut problem and answer, Tess finds a true puzzle. There is no indication the young man was involved with drugs of any kind. Was the death a tragic accident, or is something more sinister involved?

Her investigation is derailed when a specter of her past appears in town and her attention is divided by a more personal struggle. Lethal Target is about Tess finding her footing in a new job, solving a tragic crime, and finding her way back to faith.

The investigation into illegal opiates is a realistic and timely problem. All over the country recently, law enforcement has struggled with a plague of opiate overdoses and a stream of illegal opiates from across the border.

But Tess’s struggle with faith also plays into the story. Her father died in the line of duty when she was sixteen years old, and she turned her back on God. She couldn’t reconcile her father’s murder with the idea of a “good” God. The “why” question nagged her over the years. Why would God cut down a good man while he was trying to save the life of another? Now, in addition to the law enforcement problems she faces, she is confronted with another tragic death and another question with no obvious answer: “Why would a good God let this happen to a promising young life?”

In her new home in Rogue’s Hollow, Tess sees strong faith at work in the lives of people she has come to know, people who have also suffered painful, unfair losses. Pastor Oliver MacPherson is one person whose faith walk has an impact on Tess. His wife was murdered, yet as Tess gets to know him, she sees that the loss has not dented his faith at all. He trusts God and his faith never wavers. For Oliver, the world is broken, but God is still in control. The back-and-forth Tess has with Oliver about faith is intertwined with the murder investigation and Tess’s own struggle with the nemesis of her past.

Tess eventually comes to terms with the loss of her father, and while her anger at God abates, ultimately there is no answer to the “why” question—not for Tess, Oliver, or the parents of the dead boy. It’s a question God never seems to answer. As in the biblical story of Job, sometimes the only answer God gives us is himself. The bottom line is that the believer’s walk with Christ is a walk of faith and of trust, even when answers are unattainable, the loss inexplicable. Faith in a good and gracious God allows us to trust that he always has our best in mind, even when we can’t see it amid the painful circumstances.

Even Rogue’s Hollow is not immune to the ever-spreading opioid epidemic. And though Tess finds a law enforcement answer for the young man’s death, the answer is not comforting or settling. So she relies on her faith in an unchanging, trustworthy God. Lethal Target is as much about crime and motives as it is about walking in faith and trust, no matter what this broken world throws at us.

Lethal Target by Janice Cantore

Police Chief Tess O’Rourke thought she’d taken care of her small town’s drug problem last year. But now Rogue’s Hollow residents are up in arms over a contentious vote on legalizing the sale of marijuana within city limits. And when an eighteen-year-old is found dead of a possible overdose, Tess wonders if the local pot farms might be involved and begins to fear that a new, deadlier drug supply chain has cropped up. As tempers flare and emotions boil over, Tess faces the possibility of losing the town’s support.

With her relationship to Sergeant Steve Logan on shaky ground, Tess could really use a friend, and she feels drawn to Pastor Oliver Macpherson’s quiet presence. But the anger she holds over her father’s death prevents her from embracing his faith and finding peace.

Battling storms within and without, Tess is shocked when a familiar face from her past shows up in town to stir up more trouble. And his threats against Tess may prove lethal.

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