Fiction borrows heavily from fact in this stark action novel built around Mexico’s drug war as it spills into the U.S.
Grant Meredith is the stoic, stubborn hero of his own privatized effort to take down a cartel kingpin. Trouble is, the kingpin—who has a grudge against Meredith to begin with—is the father of the president of Mexico, a stature that protects him with a complicated sociopolitical reality that includes the police, judiciary and armed forces. Meredith has an arsenal of his own, however, including his multinational security company, BlackRock. High-caliber havoc ensues. The subtitle of the book sums it up: Murder or Self Defense on the Mexican Border. Or both murder and self-defense, as bullets fly north and south in a sprawling story that has henchmen beheaded, padrones shot in the face and sharpshooters picked off by other sharpshooters. The gist of the tale is painfully realistic, ripped quite literally from the headlines (the author acknowledges this in an appendix of news stories). Merriman—a military veteran who lives in Arizona and Colorado—has done his homework. For example, one passage describes in concise fashion the vast illicit-drug economy that supports people from all walks of life: “Farmers, importers, purchasing agents, negotiators, shippers, financial managers, money launderers, accountants, lawyers, intelligence agents, communications specialists, car thieves, enforcers, spotters, distribution agents, smugglers and street sellers.” That’s what Meredith is up against. While the factual basis of the narrative is compelling, the central drama between Meredith and his nemesis is lost sometimes in an excessive character count and a tangled plot. There’s also the fact that Meredith is essentially a soldier of fortune, a quality that will hinder his likeability for some readers—BlackRock being so reminiscent of Blackwater USA, the military contractor that became so controversial in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The story has a neat closing twist, however, and Meredith’s alliance with a beautiful assassin is an inspired idea.
An action-packed topical read that is sometimes overly complicated.