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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Illegal

Paul Levine, already the author of two well-received series (the Solomon vs. Lord books and the Jake Lassiter books), this time up offers, Illegal, the first volume of his new series featuring Los Angeles lawyer Jimmy Payne.

It may say “J. Atticus Payne” on his business card but he is just Jimmy Payne to his friends and “Royal” Payne to his opponents in the courthouse. At least that is the way it was before a family tragedy led to Payne’s divorce from Sharon, the woman he still loves – and not so secretly believes still loves him despite her recent engagement to a radically conservative radio personality. Now, he is pretty much “Royal” Payne to everyone he knows, including Sharon.

Payne is a man with an attitude, something that can be, and usually is, a problem in a courtroom. Combined with poor judgment and a big mouth, both of which Payne has in abundance, it can be fatal to a legal career. When, on his way to a jail cell to do time for a contempt of court charge, Jimmy decides instead to make a run for it, he runs straight into a situation that will change his life forever.

Tino Perez is only twelve years old but he is a streetwise beyond his years, despite the efforts of his protective mother, and he has made his way illegally to Los Angeles from his home in Mexico in hopes of finding his mother there. The two became separated at the California border and Tino is desperate to find Marisol again. The boy has no money or documentation and, after he fails at trying to rob Jimmy, decides to ask for his help instead of his money.

Jimmy Payne, already on the run anyway, is “encouraged” by his ex-wife to help Tino find his mother, so the two of them backtrack to Mexico hoping to discover what happened to Marisol at the border and where she might have ended up. From this point, Illegal becomes a thrilling exposé of the dangers faced by those attempting to enter the United States illegally from Mexico. Jimmy and Tino have to contend with ruthless and violent men on both sides of the border, men who exist in a shadow world that those seeking illegal entry into the U.S. often come to know too well.

In a race to stay one step ahead of the authorities looking for him, Jimmy, with Tito in tow, goes toe-to-toe with coyotes in Mexico and California, crooked cops, American vigilantes determined to close the border, sex slavers, and an exploitive agricultural king who employs hundreds of illegal workers.

Illegal is a wild and bloody ride that personalizes some of what happens on America’s southern border every week. A few of the characters, especially the villains, tend to be a bit stereotypical, but the book is so action-filled that it is easy to get past that minor distraction. Illegal is a good start to what should be a fun series and I am already looking forward to what Jimmy Payne gets himself into next time around.

Rated at: 4.0

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