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RIP CREW
by Sebastian Rotella
Mulholland, March 2018
336 pages
$27.00
ISBN: 0316505536


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you're looking for an intelligent thriller that matches adrenaline with a journalistic eye on international affairs, look no further than Sebastian Rotella's border-crossing thrillers. In the third of these, following TRIPLE CROSSING and THE CONVERT'S SONG, he pairs up his naive but talented ex-Border Patrol agent Valentine Pescatore, now a private investigator, with weary, principled Mexican journalist, Leo Mendez, once again. This time they're working on an off-the-books investigation for their friend, Isabel Puente. Though she now works for Homeland Security, she can't entrust her case to anyone official because all indications are that a colleague on the inside is protecting someone powerful. And dangerous.

As inured to drug cartel violence as people on both sides of the US-Mexican border have become, a horrific slaughter of women migrants from South America and Africa has made the news. It seems to be the work of a "rip crew" - a new kind of criminal gang that targets traffickers to seize money using any means necessary. Isabel Puente wants to find two women who escaped the carnage because one of them reportedly is being hunted by agents for an American corporation that is pulling all the levers it can in Washington to seal a valuable deal with a corrupt Mexican business partner. There's money laundering involved, but as Pescatore and Mendez begin to put the pieces together, they realize there are uglier crimes as well. Before it's all over, readers will follow the team and their allies across continents, tracking down every lead from the southernmost border of Mexico, to Brazil, to the teeming refugee camps of Lampedusa to the quiet but deadly streets of suburban San Diego.

Through his cast of characters and their global investigation, Rotella manages to raise ethical questions about immigration policies, the power of the wealth to cross borders while bypassing legal and ethical obligations, the role of journalists in holding the powerful accountable, and the tangled loyalties of reporters and DC insiders. in addition to all that, he pulls off thrilling action scenes worthy of adrenaline-fueled Hollywood films. Without sacrificing pace, he uses the authenticity of a reporter's eye to provide multiple perspectives on the refugee crisis, violence against the vulnerable, and the new kinds of chaos mutating from Mexican cartels.

Those who enjoy John le Carré's cynical view of espionage packaged in character-rich moral dilemmas should try Rotella's globe-trotting adventures, a smart and welcome riff on the international thriller.

§ Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, May 2018

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