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    Review of ILLEGAL by Paul Levine (see his website)

    Lawyer Jimmy (J. Atticus) Payne has been on a downward slope since his son was killed in a hit-and-run accident. He's obsessed over his own guilt, was unable to maintain his marriage, and goes into denial about the death. The Mexican immigrants he represented when a driver left them in the back of a truck to die may believe he's a hero, but Payne knows better. When the feds use him to set up a corrupt judge, he loses all respect from his fellow lawyers and the judges before whom he practices.

    Fleeing from an abusive boss, Marisol and her son Tino have got to get out of Mexico--to the promised land of California. But the border crossing isn't easy--or cheap. The two are separated during the crossing and Tino, desperate to find his mother, tracks Payne down. Payne, driven by guilt over his son's death, sees a chance at something like redemption. But it isn't long before the feds, the local police, Mexican gangsters, and a certain very powerful man are all after Payne and his young sidekick.

    Author Paul Levine (see more reviews of novels by Levine) writes convincingly of the self-destructive spiral a man can find himself in, and of the bonds that grow between the boy and the older man. Levine presents modern-day California in a similar light to that of the 1920s/30s Los Angeles of Chinatown (a movie Levine mentions), with illegal immigrants forming the basis for wealth and power, but also being used for political purposes. ILLEGAL is a far grimmer, darker story than Levine's charming Solomon and Lord stories, and Payne seems a little super-human at times, but ILLEGAL is a hard story to put down.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 5/28/09

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