Veteran mystery writer Hunsicker (Crosshairs, 2007, etc.) turns in an ever-so-timely tale of mayhem and murder set on familiar Texas turf.
People will opine, orate and bloviate on the matter of border security without much encouragement. They’ll do anything, it seems, except read a serious book about it. So Hunsicker does good and useful work in sneaking a conversation about the international line into a whodunit. On the face of it, that story seems full of promise for disappointment: It’s got dishy dames, rogue government types, crooked politicos and all the usual makings of the usual procedural. But Hunsicker adds contemporary twists that enrich the story, some of them subtle, others not so much. He bangs home the point, for instance, that in order to save money, the government has for years been hiring private contractors to do everything from dump garbage to interrogate suspected terrorists. The supposed savings are chimerical, as it happens, but at least the contractors save time by dispensing with the usual legal niceties until things get too hairy, whereupon “[t]hey’ll wave the national security flag, and the pit bulls at Homeland Security will take over.” In such a scenario, self-sufficient, disgraced (naturally) ex-cop Joe Cantrell finds plenty of room to move—and plenty of obstacles, too, as he tries to get a trial witness across the Lone Star State in one piece while he faces all manner of feds, narcs, narcotraficantes, ops and enough assorted baddies to make Anton Chigurh think twice. Of course, the witness has ideas of her own, while Cantrell’s cool-as-a-cucumber partner is free-wheeling enough to make us wonder, at times, whose side she’s on. Indeed, the best part of Hunsicker’s story is its skillful blurring of the lines between good guys and bad; as one of the principals says, “Both sides, the narcos and the police, they think they are in the right,” adding, “It’s very…ironic.”
It is, though the story is seldom subtle enough to explore those ironies.