September 01, 1997 12:00 PM

by Don Winslow

Beach Book of the Week

TIM KEARNEY HAS JUST GOTTEN AN offer he can’t refuse. Instead of serving a life sentence as a three-time loser, the Desert Storm hero turned petty thief can walk out of San Quentin. That is, if he agrees to perform a little service for the DEA—helping on a sting by impersonating a man to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance: surfer and dope smuggler Bobby Z.

But Tim swiftly discovers kahuna-hood brings plenty of enemies. Before you can say Maui wowie, he’s running (with Z’s trusting 6-year-old son in tow) from some very heavy dudes, including a passel of East L.A. gang bangers, a few really p.o.’d Hell’s Angels and Don Huertero, a Mexican drug kingpin who blames Z for the suicide of his only daughter.

During the wild ride that ensues, Winslow, a former New York City private eye, endows his righteous Rambo with more lives than Shirley MacLaine. Fortunately, any lapses in credibility are outweighed by the cinematic pacing, potent irony and great escapes. Make this one of yours. (Knopf, $22)

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