Bantam, Hardcover, 9780553806731, 384pp.
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
The Edgar-nominated author acclaimed for his crackling courtroom scenes delivers an adrenaline-laced, no-holds-barred thriller—his most powerful novel to date—as a disgraced lawyer travels the twisted border between justice and revenge.
Haunted by a tragedy in his past and wanted by the cops for his latest malfeasance, trial lawyer Jimmy “Royal” Payne needs to skip town. That’s when he crosses paths with twelve-year-old Tino Perez, newly arrived from Mexico with no money and no papers. The gutsy kid first robs Payne, then pleads for his help. Marisol, the boy’s mother, is missing, after crossing the border with a vicious coyote.
Payne doesn’t go out of his way for anyone. But ex-wife Sharon, the L.A.P.D. detective he still loves, gives him a choice: help the boy or go to jail.
Following a chain of greed, corruption, and betrayal, Payne traces Marisol’s steps from Mexicali to California’s Hellhole Canyon, swept into the dark current of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and sexual slavery. Soon the cynical lawyer and the savvy kid are bonding…and battling cunning predators on both sides of the border. It’s the two of them against an army of cops, coyotes, vigilantes, and sex slavers. Most dangerous of all is Simeon Rutledge, a wealthy grower and the biggest employer of farm workers in California.
Just why is Rutledge willing to bribe Payne—or kill him—to keep Marisol under wraps? Will Payne’s quest redeem his mistakes and resurrect his dead marriage—or get him buried in a shallow grave? Either way, he’ll find out there’s no escaping his past….
From the shadows of migrant stash houses to the fertile fields of the San Joaquin Valley, Illegal delivers a searing mix of live-wire prose, shattering violence, and rich characterization. Set against a backdrop of larger social issues, this is a masterful tale from one of the most skillful practitioners of the contemporary thriller.
“Riveting ... filled with action, pathos, and even humor. ... The book’s best quality is the way Levine invests his characters with believable humanity.”—Booklist