An Immigration and Naturalization Services agent uncovers what was really behind the arrest of an illegal immigrant that went awry.
With 26 years of experience as an agent for the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency, and INS, author Kading delivers a debut thriller that, initially at least, promises a timely angle in its subject, illegal immigration. An opening prologue becomes the crux of the case: on patrol in Chicago in 1974, INS agents spot a Argentinian who appears to be, in agency vernacular, a “wet,” or illegal immigrant. In the violent scuffle that ensues, the suspect is shot dead; but so, too, is one of the officers, and by his own gun. Thirteen years later, new agent Nick Hayden arrives at Chicago INS headquarters with “callowness in [his] eyes.” Hayden works with 54-year-old Joe Willis, a hardened veteran who greets the rookie with something between “indifference and outright hostility.” The pairing seldom moves beyond the schematic to develop the men’s characters more fully. Hayden, in particular, is only sketched in as a law school dropout who's put his personal life on hold until he becomes a top agent. He also remains off scene for long stretches while Kading works in routine and familiar subplots that could be interchanged with any number of other thrillers. Chief among them is one that follows Salvador Rico, who traffics in counterfeit green cards, sparking a turf war among gangsters profiteering from the wave of immigrants arriving in Chicago. With the appearance of each new character, Hayden follows a by-the-numbers approach that turns to expository flashbacks that put a drag on momentum and, as written, do a lot more showing than telling. The plot remains largely unfocused for a good third of the book until attention shifts back to Hayden who, it appears, is certain the 1974 killing masks a major coverup. As he endeavors to uncover the story behind the shootout, the second half of the book gains drive and momentum.
A long and winding road.