Illegal by Paul Levine

Contemporary writers sometimes hit the nail right on the head with such a forceful blow that causes readers to wonder what is really going on at the border between the United States and Mexico. Paul Levine’s novel Illegal is one of the few books with such clarity of description that he demonstrates the trafficking to be more horrific than the media leads us to believe.

The main character in this novel is Jimmy “Royal” Payne. He is an attorney who from page one gets into trouble with the law, which leads to a never-ending saga of escapades back and forth across the border. Payne, even with his own problems, reaches out to provide assistance to Tino Perez, a 12 year-old boy that has illegally entered the United States. Perez’s mother was separated from the boy as they tried to cross the border and the ensuing drama unfolds drawing Jimmy and Tino closer together as they follow leads to her location.

The seamy side of smuggling human cargo is deftly exposed by the clear and concise writing of the Edgar Award nominated author Levine. Previous books have mostly been centered in the courtroom with intense cross-examination, but here is a different descriptive writing style which engages an audience about the realities of living in terror. Drugs are a part of the story, but the depraved conduct by the coyotes is a shocking wake-up call. It is critical that our borders be monitored more closely to prevent inhumane conduct.

Current events are portrayed in this book as if you were reading a newspaper. What is most salient to remember when you read this book, is that even though this is fiction, the circumstances of these events are very realistic. Thousands of border deaths happen yearly and this book is a cry for helping the victims.

We often read about the arrests of coyotes and the freeing of prisoners who have been held forcefully in isolation by them. More of these stories need to be told and Levine should be commended for bringing the plight of the illegally detained victims into a forum which is both entertaining and insightful. Illegal is highly recommended.


Author: Paul Levine

ISBN: 0553806734, Pages: 384, Publication Date: March 2009, Hard Cover, Mystery & Detective, Published by Bantam Dell, a division of Random House, Inc.