Monday, January 30, 2012

Triple Crossing

After perusing all the "Best of 2011" lists, I'm surprised that Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella never generated a huge hold list like many best sellers. It was a New York Times notable book and it had a great review on National Public Radio. One problem might be that the novel defies clear cut classification, falling somewhere between novel, mystery and thriller.

Rotella's first novel is set on "The Line" between San Diego and Mexico. The main characters are from both the US and Mexico. Rotella does a wonderful job of taking the reader on a behind the scenes tour of Mexican organizations, from drug cartels to the state and federal police, human rights organizations, and anti-corruption groups. On this side of the border, the characters work for the Border Patrol and the Office of the Inspector General. The action moves from the US, to Mexico and then to the region known as the Triple Border - the area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.

The book has a cast of characters, rather than focusing on one individual. Valentine Pescatore, a border patrol agent, finds himself enmeshed in an international investigation after an ill-fated incursion into Mexico. Leo Mendez is an anti-corruption police investigator from Mexico. Isabel Puente, from the OIG, mediates between the two men, trying to move their investigation forward despite their mutual distrust and dislike.

Although the characters are well drawn, the real attraction of the novel is the way Rotella gives insight into Mexico and issues faced by Mexican law enforcement. Rotella also paints an amazing picture of the Triple Border as an international zone of corruption, greed and lawlessness.

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