In this novel based on true events, a Drug Enforcement Agency operative and two California private investigators face numerous hurdles as they investigate a cartel that’s smuggling narcotics into the United States.
When his wife lands a job in Yuma, Arizona, in 1990, DEA Agent Larry Ray Hardin requests a transfer there from San Diego. He soon zeroes in on the case of the Meraz brothers in Mexico; authorities have tied them to heroin, cocaine, and marijuana trafficking, money laundering, and arms smuggling. They’re also allegedly behind the shooting of two DEA agents in 1975 and another agent’s torture and murder 10 years after that, so Larry makes it his personal mission to stop their organization. Although he suspects corruption and leaks among his colleagues, he ultimately finds common ground with two Los Angeles PIs. Jeff Pearce and Randy Torgerson are trying to link the Merazes’ drugs to trucks transporting shrimp, as well as a California seafood company. Unfortunately, many officials, agents, and prosecutors are either crooked or too scared to help, which makes their goal a seemingly impossible task. DeMille (co-author: It Started With a Pencil, 2016) and debut co-authors Hardin, Pearce, and Torgerson’s story is based in fact, but it changes several names and invents many events and conversations. However, it deftly presents the frustrations that law enforcement officials and PIs endure. None of the assistant U.S. attorneys that Larry knows, for example, seem intent on prosecuting the dangerous Merazes. The novel splits the narrative into first-person accounts from Larry’s, Jeff’s, and Randy’s points of view, as well as intermittent third-person narration. This structure allows for brief but intriguing looks into each man’s backstory, as well as startling incidents, such as a sexual-assault allegation. The straightforward prose style keeps the particulars of the ongoing investigations clear. Still, it’s confusing when first-person narration occasionally slips into third, and vice versa, without explanation. There are also muddled dates; Larry and the PIs meet to compare cases in 1991, which contradicts earlier details, such as Randy joining the Los Angeles business in 1992 and the PIs’ investigation starting in 1993.
An often engrossing glimpse into an arduous criminal investigation, despite some missteps.