Mulholland, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ournalist Sebastian Rotella makes a most impressive fiction debut with his thriller,
, starring Valentine Pescatore, a rather wild young Border Patrol agent, whose life seems on the cusp of working within or against the law. Then a series of serendipitous events propel him willy nilly into a perilous undercover role with a drug cartel, in Mexico and South America.
ow does this all come about? As a rookie agent on
in San Diego, Pescatore works under a corrupt supervisor, ex-Special Forces Arleigh Garrison, who is under investigation by Isabel Puente of the Inspector General's office (internal affairs). Though he does his job, Pescatore feels sympathy for the migrants he apprehends and slips cash to many of them. When Pescatore gets carried away and pursues a smuggler over the border into Mexico, his troubles begin and he is investigated by Isabel. She gives him a choice - work undercover against Garrison or be indicted.
n Tijuana, readers meet Leo Mendez, chief of the Diogenes Group (an anti-corruption unit) and his associates, Athos and Porthos. Mendez (dubbed '
Don Quixote meets Eliot Ness
' by the US media) has mixed support from his superiors. He has sent his immediate family to California for their protection. He works closely with human rights commissioner Araceli Aguirre, and also with Isabel. They seek evidence against the Ruiz Caballero family, dominant in the Mexican drug mafia, and well connected in high places. But these are '
times of excellent cadavers
' and violence quickly escalates.
s Pescatore starts reporting to Isabel on Garrison, they have a brief liaison. Then his life comes apart at the seams. After being present at a shooting in which a cop dies, he ends up in flight to Tijuana and the cartel. Virtually a prisoner, sought by the authorities on both sides of the border, Pescatore settles into a perilous undercover role, working in Junior Ruiz Caballero's
. As his new position takes him by private jet from Mexico to the destabilized Triple Border region of South America, word of an undercover agent leaks and his survival becomes a race against time.
t's quite a ride for both Valentine Pescatore and the reader. But while it's an exciting thriller,
also offers fascinating insights into the Border Patrol and what they and migrants face day to day; and also into the evolution of the drug trade south of the U.S. border. It's well worth the read!
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