Book Review: Illegal by Paul Levine
To me one of the surest signs of a good writer is the ability to make me root for a character I would never have expected to like. While I would never compare Paul Levine to the great Orson Scott Card, I was genuinely impressed at how much Levine made me care about Jimmy Payne, a not very successful Los Angeles defense lawyer, whose career is going right down the drain in the opening sequence of Illegal. It’s been a bad time for Payne, whose son Adam was killed by a drunk driver, who it so happens was an illegal immigrant who returned to Mexico rather than face charges. Payne is separated from his wife, a Los Angeles police officer who is engaged to Cullen Quinn, a right wing bloviator for a local station who is intent on landing a spot with Fox News.
After a particularly bad day in court, wherein Payne angers the judge so much he is sent to the lock up, Jimmy escapes from custody with the help of a friendly guard and stops by his office on his way to running down to Mexico. It is in his office that he encounters Tino, a young Mexican boy who was separated from his mother while the two were attempting to cross illegally into the United States. Jimmy is very taken with Tino and decides to help Tino to find his mother. The two set off in Payne’s SUV and manage to get into and out of a whole bunch of trouble.
I was very impressed at how well the narrator depicted the situation in California’s central valley where illegal immigrants make up much of the work force. His depictions of the Los Angeles police department and criminal courts were also entirely credible, and the rather Thelma and Louise adventure that the young boy and the middle aged attorney embark on was wonderfully mad cap. Illegal blends a great deal of solid information about a number of topics with a laugh out loud funny plot that will leave you rooting for the disgraced lawyer and the Mexican boy. If you enjoy suspense with lots of laughs, Illegal is Highly Recommended.