Bantam, Mar 31 2009, $22.00
One year has past since the illegal DUI killed his ten year old son Adam and consequently his marriage to former cop Sharon and even his law career defending the underdog. Jimmy "Royal" Payne could not sink any lower, but LAPD Public Integrity Unit Detective Eugene Rigney manages to help him do so. Rigney blackmails Payne with his handling of the Molly Kraft case which could lead to jail time; instead he tells Jimmy to offer a $50,000 bribe to Judge Rollins. Jimmy pockets $5,000 and bribes the Judge. When exposed Rollins commits suicide, Jimmy is ostracized at court and on the run from a contempt charge, and I.A. investigates Rigney.
In Mexico Marisol Perez knows that she and her son twelve years old Agustino “Tino” must flee their hometown. The mom arranges with coyote El Tigre to take them across to the States. Before they leave she gives her son a business card of J. Atticus Payne who helped a family friend in case they get separated. The kid makes it to L.A. on a donkey forced to carry drugs while the mom is stuck at the border. The bilingual foul mouthed Tino and the bitter cynic “Himmy” hook up searching for the lad’s undocumented mom while the law searches for Jimmy.
Payne is somewhat typical of a Paul Levine male protagonist (sort of a California version of Floridian Steve Solomon of Solomon and Lord), a hard shell containing a soft boiled hero. He and his sidekick keep the story line focused as they cause havoc on both sides of the border. The support cast brings the freshness to the plot and the illegal immigrant issue from kindhearted but kick butt Wanda the Whale to crazy sharpshooter Chitwood; but especially mega-farm owner Simeon Rutledge with his perspective on courage as a family carrying the young across a desert and a mountain while patriots take shots at them. Readers will appreciate this fine thriller as Payne obtains redemption with his need to help Tino at all cost.