Mark Terry

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ILLEGAL by Paul Levine

March 25, 2009

I finished reading Paul Levine's latest novel, ILLEGAL, last night. Ripping through it, really.

When Marisol Perez and her 12-year-old son Tino flee Mexico to the U.S.--not simply because of better jobs and life, but because a very bad man wants to kill Tino--Marisol gives her son the business card of L.A. lawyer Jimmy Payne and tells him that if they get separated or if something should happen to her, he should contact Mr. Payne who was an important man in L.A. and he would help him.

Cue the ironic music. The reason Jimmy "Royal" Payne is an important man is because he went nuts in a courtroom trial involving the deaths of a bunch of illegals who died in a sealed truck. Jimmy's career and personal life is a train wreck of near-Biblical proportions. And he's about as far from the stalwart, high-minded attorney as is possible to get. For instance, when coerced into acting as a bagman in a sting against a corrupt judge, Jimmy skims 10% off the top for his trouble.

To-date Paul Levine has written three series about lawyers--Jake Lassiter, the Solomon versus Lord series, and now Jimmy Payne. They're all of a type--a not-quite-ethical lawyer who manages to surpass his own skills and iffy ethics, a custodial arrangement of a troubled but smart and verbal young boy, and a rollicking sense of humor. 

Well, back to the plot. Of course, Marisol and Tino do get separated and Tino does hook up with Jimmy, whose career just took a major turn south. He decided--under some prodding from his ex-wife--to help Tino look for his mother. Road trip time: down to Mexico and back up to immigrant farm country with what could be called adventures if they weren't so simultaneously grim and humorous.

I liked just about everything about this book. I would have been just as glad to read another Solomon versus Lord novel or even a Jake Lassiter novel if Paul and a publisher thought it was possible. A couple things struck me most about this novel, though. One was just how complicated all the characters were. Jimmy's likable, but his life's a mess. The villain of the piece--unless you look at illegal immigration as the potential villain in the piece--is very complicated. You can be disgusted by his actions and his behavior at the same time as you nod at what he has to say about immigrant farmers and the U.S. economy. The other is that Levine paints a fairly complicated picture about illegal immigration issues in the U.S. without getting preachy or even digressing. He shows us what's going on and some of the repercussions, which to my mind really elevates the book.

Highly recommended.

Mark Terry


Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Oooo, sounds like a good one! Love the lawyer type books. I'll definately pick this one up.
Thanks mark!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous paul levine said...

Thanks for the savvy review. This book has more meat on its bones than some of my earlier fare. Working on the second Payne book now.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think that's a fair description. It's very entertaining, though.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone needs to review the bogus reviews on this site. (ID: the obvious adds posted as reviews). Where is the blog author???

10:31 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yes, anonymous. that is why I now screen all comments, including yours. Which, because you were anonymous, I considered deleting rather than posting.

10:36 AM  

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