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Triple Crossing
Sebastian Rotella

Mulholland Books
8/10/11/ ISBN 978-0-316-10530-9
Political Thriller

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

Triple Crossing, Sebastian Rotella’s debut novel, deals with the important subject of border security. Rotella’s extensive experience as a reporter covering this issue makes this novel extremely credible and true to life.

The plot has all the necessary components for a fascinating book: intrigue, corruption, cruelty, heroism, and dark humor. The story begins with Border Patrol Agent Valentine Pescatore working the San Diego line, getting into trouble by crossing over into Mexico while pursuing anillegal immigrant, and becoming an informant for Isabel Puente, a US agent. Together Pescatore and Puente investigate and infiltrate a powerful Mexican drug family in order to bring it down.

They work together with Leo Mendez, chief of a Tijuana anticorruption unit. Pescatore sees himself as “a forced recruit in a traveling gangster circus led by a crazy cokehead billionaire woman-killer.” Rotella commented that his characters are “inspired by many of the drug traffickers, whether big shots or soldiers, I have encountered or reported about while covering Mexico and Latin America.”

The characters are very well developed and the reader is able to gain a compelling look into their thinking and desires. The male lead, Valentine Pescatore, is a rookie Border Patrol agent who is impulsive, caring, and righteous. Through his skepticism Rotella explores the “fascinating, dangerous, overwhelming jobs that the agents do. The book offers a detailed look at what that work is like and the personalities who do it. Many details are grounded in reality.” The frustration of Border Patrol Agents in finding a trustworthy ally in Mexican law enforcement that is exemplified by Pescatore, “…considering all the Mexican criminals we can’t extradite because of the criminals in their government…”

The female lead is Isabel Puente, a sexy Cuban American who recruits Pescatore to become aninformant. Rotella chose a woman to play this important role of fighting corruption within law enforcement because, “I have reported about women investigators who did impressive anti-corruption work; women have played lead roles in law enforcement reform on both sides of theborder.” Of course it did not hurt to create romantic tension in the book by having these two protagonists working closely together and having them eventually fall in love.

The setting of the book occurs between San Diego and Tijuana instead of the Arizona border that has been the focus of today’s news. Rotella explained that he did this because he feels that theCalifornia border area has the most “intense, political, economical, and cultural activity. Tijuana has a long tradition of powerful mafias and politically charged drug violence.”

Throughout the book the reader is able to understand the dangers of life south of the border. There are chilling scenes of crime fighters being brutally assassinated, the attitude of the cartel that they smile at death, and how the heroes and heroines must constantly live with danger, almost like a nacro-insurgency atmosphere.

Although a novel, this book is very insightful regarding the violent and corrupt world of the Mexican drug cartel as well as the job of America’s law enforcement in fighting it. The reader is taken on a mesmerizing ride where they are able to see the lawlessness, the clash of American and Mexican cultures, and the attitude of those on the front line. Anyone interested in border security will want to read this entertaining novel mirrored in reality.


Reviewed 2011
© 2011