By Paul Levine
Published by Bantam Books
J. Atticus Payne, affectionately known as "Royal" Payne by judges and law enforcement agencies, has problems. His wife has left him for a right wing tv talk show host, he's being hunted down by an internal affairs officer for skimming money from a sting operation in which he was to bribe a judge. Oh yeah he's also now hated by all judges and attorneys for bribing a judge. Things just don't seem to work out so well for Jimmy "Royal" Payne.
To make matters worse his son was killed by an illegal immigrant that was drinking while driving and smashed into Jimmy's car when he and his son were out for a father/son day. Payne is out to seek revenge on this Mexican by always threatening to hunt him down and kill him with his bare hands. Luckily his ex-wife, Sharon, has been able to stop this when he's threatened to do it before. But now it looks as though he has nothing to lose.
Oh but that's not all to this story, not by a long shot. You see, J. Atticus Payne had once helped some illegal aliens that were forced to suffer in the desert heat inside a metal tractor trailer. Some of the Illegals died but the ones that survived got to become citizens thanks to Payne. Now when Marisol and her son Tino need to cross the border and escape Mexico to the promised land of "El Norte," Marisol gives her son Payne's business card in case they get separated he should contact Payne to help him.
During their border crossing something goes wrong with the coyotes (the people transporting the immigrants) and the border patrol and Tino gets separated from his mother. When Tino finds Payne he discovers that Payne is not the great man the legends have created, but seeks his help to find his mother anyway.
Payne's ex-wife is supposed to arrest him (Payne) but after hearing the boy's story let's him go to reunite Tino and Marisol.
In an adventure that brings out the heartbreak and danger of the everyday life of an illegal immigrant Payne and Tino go back to Mexico to retrace the steps of their crossing to find Marisol. Covering the dangers of border crossing, the dangers of illegal workers in packing plants and farms and the dangers of being hunted down by the so-called patriots guarding the borders and even by those bringing in the illegals. This novel is fun, adventurous and poignant all in one. Not since I read T. C. Boyle's "Tortilla Curtain" have I absorbed a novel that covers the plight of illegal immigrants viewed from both sides of the issue.
Great book that you will not be able to put down once reading.