The Mercy Oak
Kathryn R. Wall
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
On Sunday Island, South Carolina Bobby Santiago calls his mother Dolores’ employer Simpson & Tanner Inquiry Agent Bay Tanner asking for her help. He fears the Hispanic Jane Doe reported as dead in the Sunday Island Packet is his girlfriend, Serena Montalvo, who he believes was murdered.
Serena has been a vocal advocate of the rights of illegals; Bobby thinks the Coyotes who transport them to the States for exorbitant fees and blackmails them afterward, killed her. However, instead the victim is Serena’s sixteen years old sister, Theresa. Bobby and Serena vanish while his parents out of fear for their other two offspring as well themselves remain mute on what they know. When Dolores vanishes, Bay drops everything to find her housekeeper even as FBI Special Agent Harry Reynolds warns Bay to stay out of his inquiries into some bank robberies he is investigating and Homeland Security agents threaten to lock her up under the Patriot Act if she does not back off. Obstinate as ever; Bay digs deeper as she distrusts the Feds to protect the Santiago’s, Montalvo’s, or any illegals.
This is a fabulous Bay Tanner mystery that showcases the other side of the illegal immigration issue from the perspective of those entering the country illegally. Ironically, the recent clamor led by Congressman Tancredo to kick people out has abetted the Coyote crowd, who has found a lucrative second economic source. The story line is fast-paced as Bay gets involved in a case in which everyone tells her to stay out or else. Kathryn R. Wall is at her best with this exciting thought provoking thriller focusing on the consequences of who keeps winning the illegal immigration debate.